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Memórias do Instituto Oswaldo Cruz

Print version ISSN 0074-0276

Abstract

BASSO, Luiz Augusto et al. The use of biodiversity as source of new chemical entities against defined molecular targets for treatment of malaria, tuberculosis, and T-cell mediated diseases: a review. Mem. Inst. Oswaldo Cruz [online]. 2005, vol.100, n.6, pp. 475-506. ISSN 0074-0276.  http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/S0074-02762005000600001.

The modern approach to the development of new chemical entities against complex diseases, especially the neglected endemic diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria, is based on the use of defined molecular targets. Among the advantages, this approach allows (i) the search and identification of lead compounds with defined molecular mechanisms against a defined target (e.g. enzymes from defined pathways), (ii) the analysis of a great number of compounds with a favorable cost/benefit ratio, (iii) the development even in the initial stages of compounds with selective toxicity (the fundamental principle of chemotherapy), (iv) the evaluation of plant extracts as well as of pure substances. The current use of such technology, unfortunately, is concentrated in developed countries, especially in the big pharma. This fact contributes in a significant way to hamper the development of innovative new compounds to treat neglected diseases. The large biodiversity within the territory of Brazil puts the country in a strategic position to develop the rational and sustained exploration of new metabolites of therapeutic value. The extension of the country covers a wide range of climates, soil types, and altitudes, providing a unique set of selective pressures for the adaptation of plant life in these scenarios. Chemical diversity is also driven by these forces, in an attempt to best fit the plant communities to the particular abiotic stresses, fauna, and microbes that co-exist with them. Certain areas of vegetation (Amazonian Forest, Atlantic Forest, Araucaria Forest, Cerrado-Brazilian Savanna, and Caatinga) are rich in species and types of environments to be used to search for natural compounds active against tuberculosis, malaria, and chronic-degenerative diseases. The present review describes some strategies to search for natural compounds, whose choice can be based on ethnobotanical and chemotaxonomical studies, and screen for their ability to bind to immobilized drug targets and to inhibit their activities. Molecular cloning, gene knockout, protein expression and purification, N-terminal sequencing, and mass spectrometry are the methods of choice to provide homogeneous drug targets for immobilization by optimized chemical reactions. Plant extract preparations, fractionation of promising plant extracts, propagation protocols and definition of in planta studies to maximize product yield of plant species producing active compounds have to be performed to provide a continuing supply of bioactive materials. Chemical characterization of natural compounds, determination of mode of action by kinetics and other spectroscopic methods (MS, X-ray, NMR), as well as in vitro and in vivo biological assays, chemical derivatization, and structure-activity relationships have to be carried out to provide a thorough knowledge on which to base the search for natural compounds or their derivatives with biological activity.

Keywords : biodiversity; defined molecular targets; tuberculosis; Apicomplexan; T-cell mediated diseases.

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