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Remarkable similarity in Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase dynamics and its implication for antimalarial drug design

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Malaria, mainly caused by Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, has been a growing cause of morbidity and mortality. P. falciparum is more lethal than is P. vivax, but there is a vital need for effective drugs against both species. Geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (GGPPS) is an enzyme involved in the biosynthesis of quinones and in protein prenylation and has been proposed to be a malaria drug target. However, the structure of P. falciparumGGPPS (PfGGPPS) has not been determined, due to difficulties in crystallization. Here, we created a PfGGPPS model using the homologous P.vivaxGGPPS X-ray structure as a template. We simulated the modeled PfGGPPS as well as PvGGPPS using conventional and Gaussian accelerated molecular dynamics in both apo- and GGPP-bound states. The MD simulations revealed a striking similarity in the dynamics of both enzymes with loop 9-10 controlling access to the active site. We also found that GGPP stabilizes PfGGPPS and PvGGPPS into closed conformations and via similar mechanisms. Shape-based analysis of the binding sites throughout the simulations suggests that the two enzymes will be readily targeted by the same inhibitors. Finally, we produced three MD-validated conformations of PfGGPPS to be used in future virtual screenings for potential new antimalarial drugs acting on both PvGGPPS and PfGGPPS.

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