Targeted Inhibition of Plasmodium falciparum Calcium-Dependent Protein Kinase 1 with a Constrained J Domain-Derived Disruptor Peptide
To explore the possibility of constrained peptides to target Plasmodium-infected cells, we designed a J domain mimetic derived from Plasmodium falciparum calcium-dependent protein kinase 1 ( PfCDPK1) as a strategy to disrupt J domain binding and inhibit PfCDPK1 activity. The J domain disruptor (JDD) peptide was conformationally constrained using a hydrocarbon staple and was found to selectively permeate segmented schizonts and colocalize with intracellular merozoites in late-stage parasites. In vitro analyses demonstrated that JDD could effectively inhibit the catalytic activity of recombinant PfCDPK1 in the low micromolar range. Treatment of late-stage parasites with JDD resulted in a significant decrease in parasite viability mediated by a blockage of merozoite invasion, consistent with a primary effect of PfCDPK1 inhibition. To the best of our knowledge, this marks the first use of stapled peptides designed to specifically target a Plasmodium falciparum protein and demonstrates that stapled peptides may serve as useful tools for exploring potential antimalarial agents.