Scientific Reports

Chemogenomic profiling of Plasmodium falciparum as a tool to aid antimalarial drug discovery

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The spread of Plasmodium falciparum multidrug resistance highlights the urgency to discover new targets and chemical scaffolds. Unfortunately, lack of experimentally validated functional information about most P. falciparum genes remains a strategic hurdle. Chemogenomic profiling is an established tool for classification of drugs with similar mechanisms of action by comparing drug fitness profiles in a collection of mutants. Inferences of drug mechanisms of action and targets can be obtained by associations between shifts in drug fitness and specific genetic changes in the mutants. In this screen, P. falciparum, piggyBac single insertion mutants were profiled for altered responses to antimalarial drugs and metabolic inhibitors to create chemogenomic profiles. Drugs targeting the same pathway shared similar response profiles and multiple pairwise correlations of the chemogenomic profiles revealed novel insights into drugs' mechanisms of action. A mutant of the artemisinin resistance candidate gene-"K13-propeller' gene (PF3D7-1343700) exhibited increased susceptibility to artemisinin drugs and identified a cluster of 7 mutants based on similar enhanced responses to the drugs tested. Our approach of chemogenomic profiling reveals artemisinin functional activity, linked by the unexpected drug-gene relationships of these mutants, to signal transduction and cell cycle regulation pathways.