The Plasmodium falciparum Malaria M1 Alanyl Aminopeptidase (PfA-M1): Insights of Catalytic Mechanism and Function from MD Simulations

Anita Jones, Alan Robinson, John Dalton, Grainne George, Mark Robinson

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16 Citations (Scopus)


Malaria caused by several species of Plasmodium is major parasitic disease of humans, causing 1-3 million deaths worldwide annually. The widespread resistance of the human parasite to current drug therapies is of major concern making the identification of new drug targets urgent. While the parasite grows and multiplies inside the host erythrocyte it degrades the host cell hemoglobin and utilizes the released amino acids to synthesize its own proteins. The P. falciparum malarial M1 alanyl-aminopeptidase (PfA-M1) is an enzyme involved in the terminal stages of hemoglobin digestion and the generation of an amino acid pool within the parasite. The enzyme has been validated as a potential drug target since inhibitors of the enzyme block parasite growth in vitro and in vivo. In order to gain further understanding of this enzyme, molecular dynamics simulations using data from a recent crystal structure of PfA-M1 were performed. The results elucidate the pentahedral coordination of the catalytic Zn in these metallo-proteases and provide new insights into the roles of this cation and important active site residues in ligand binding and in the hydrolysis of the peptide bond. Based on the data, we propose a two-step catalytic mechanism, in which the conformation of the active site is altered between the Michaelis complex and the transition state. In addition, the simulations identify global changes in the protein in which conformational transitions in the catalytic domain are transmitted at the opening of the N-terminal 8 angstrom-long channel and at the opening of the 30 angstrom-long C-terminal internal chamber that facilitates entry of peptides to the active site and exit of released amino acids. The possible implications of these global changes with regard to enzyme function are discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere28589
Pages (from-to)e28589
JournalPLoS ONE
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 21 Dec 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Medicine(all)


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