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The gatekeeper residue and beyond: homologous calcium-dependent protein kinases as drug development targets for veterinarian Apicomplexa parasites



Specific roles of individual CDPKs vary, but in general they mediate essential biological functions necessary for parasite survival. A comparative analysis of the structure-activity relationships (SAR) of Neospora caninum, Eimeria tenella and Babesia bovis calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) together with those of Plasmodium falciparum, Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii was performed by screening against 333 bumped kinase inhibitors (BKIs). Structural modelling and experimental data revealed that residues other than the gatekeeper influence compound–protein interactions resulting in distinct sensitivity profiles. We subsequently defined potential amino-acid structural influences within the ATP-binding cavity for each orthologue necessary for consideration in the development of broad-spectrum apicomplexan CDPK inhibitors. Although the BKI library was developed for specific inhibition of glycine gatekeeper CDPKs combined with low inhibition of threonine gatekeeper human SRC kinase, some library compounds exhibit activity against serine- or threonine-containing CDPKs. Divergent BKI sensitivity of CDPK homologues could be explained on the basis of differences in the size and orientation of the hydrophobic pocket and specific variation at other amino-acid positions within the ATP-binding cavity. In particular, BbCDPK4 and PfCDPK1 are sensitive to a larger fraction of compounds than EtCDPK1 despite the presence of a threonine gatekeeper in all three CDPKs.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Department of Medicine, Division of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases (CERID), University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98109, USA. E-mail:


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