The optimization of compounds with multiple targets is a difficult multidimensional problem in the drug discovery cycle. Here, we present a systematic, multidisciplinary approach to the development of selective anti-parasitic compounds. Computational fragment-based design of novel pteridine derivatives along with iterations of crystallographic structure determination allowed for the derivation of a structure-activity relationship for multitarget inhibition. The approach yielded compounds showing subnanomolar inhibition of T. brucei pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1), nanomolar inhibition of L. major PTR1, and selective submicromolar inhibition of parasite dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) versus human DHFR. Moreover, by combining design for polypharmacology with a property-based on-parasite optimization, we found three compounds that exhibited micromolar EC50 values against T. brucei brucei, whilst retaining their target inhibition. Our results provide a basis for the further development of pteridine-based compounds, and we expect our multitarget approach to be generally applicable to the design and optimization of anti-infective agents.
Additions to methodological details for enzyme inhibition and anti-parasitic assays for improved clarity; correction of picomolar to sub-nanomolar/potent in text as tight binding limit was approached in enzyme inhibition assay and therefore accurate IC50 values could not be determined.
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