Bisphosphonate inhibitors of Toxoplasma gondi growth: In vitro, QSAR, and in vivo investigations

Yan Ling, Gurmukh Sahota, Sarah Odeh, Julian M.W. Chan, Fausto G. Araujo, Silvia N.J. Moreno, Eric Oldfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


We have investigated the activity of 60 bisphosphonates against the replication of Toxoplasma gondii in vitro and of three of the most active compounds, in vivo. The two most active compounds found were n-alkyl bisphosphonates containing long (n = 9 or 10) hydrocarbon chains, not the nitrogen-containing species used in bone resorption therapy. The target of all of the most active bisphosphonates appears to be the isoprene biosynthesis pathway enzyme farnesyl pyrophosphate synthase (FPPS), as indicated by the correlations between T. gondii growth inhibition and FPPS (human and Leishmania major) enzyme inhibition and by the fact that a T. gondii strain engineered to overexpress FPPS required considerably higher levels of bisphosphonates to achieve 50% growth inhibition, while the IC50 for atovaquone (which does not inhibit FPPS) remained the same in the overexpressing strain. The phosphonate inhibitor of the non-mevalonate pathway, fosmidomycin, which inhibits the enzyme 1-deoxy-xylulose-5-phosphate reductoisomerase, had no effect on T. gondii growth. To investigate structure-activity relationships (SARs) in more detail, we used two three-dimensional quantitative SAR methods: comparative molecular field analysis (CoMFA) and comparative molecular similarity indices analysis (CoMSIA), to investigate all 60 bisphosphonates. Both the CoMFA and CoMSIA models indicated a 60-70% contribution from steric interactions and a 30-40% contribution from electrostatic interactions and using four N = 55 training sets for each method, we found on average between a factor of 2 and 3 error in IC50 prediction. The three most active compounds found in vitro were tested in vivo in a Smith-Webster mouse model and the two most active bisphosphonates were found to provide up to an 80% protection from death, a considerable improvement over that found previously with nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates. This effect may originate in the much higher therapeutic indices of these alkyl bisphosphonates, as deduced from in vitro assays using LD50 values for growth inhibition of a human cell line. Overall, these results indicate that alkyl bisphosphonates are promising compounds for further development as agents against Toxoplasma gondii growth, in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3130-3140
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medicinal Chemistry
Issue number9
StatePublished - May 5 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Drug Discovery


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