Combining bioinformatics, cheminformatics, functional genomics and whole organism approaches for identifying epigenetic drug targets in Schistosoma mansoni

Gilda Padalino, Salvatore Ferla, Andrea Brancale, Iain Chalmers, Karl Hoffmann

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Schistosomiasis endangers the lives of greater than 200 million people every year and is predominantly controlled by a single class chemotherapy, praziquantel (PZQ). Development of PZQ replacement (to combat the threat of PZQ insensitivity/resistance arising) or combinatorial (to facilitate the killing of PZQ-insensitive juvenile schistosomes) chemotherapies would help sustain this control strategy into the future. Here, we re-categorise two families of druggable epigenetic targets in Schistosoma mansoni, the histone methyltransferases (HMTs) and the histone demethylases (HDMs). Amongst these, a S. mansoni Lysine Specific Demethylase 1 (SmLSD1, Smp_150560) homolog was selected for further analyses. Homology modelling of SmLSD1 and in silico docking of greater than four thousand putative inhibitors identified seven (L1 – L7) showing more favourable binding to the target pocket of SmLSD1 vs Homo sapiens HsLSD1; six of these seven (L1 – L6) plus three structural analogues of L7 (L8 – L10) were subsequently screened against schistosomula using the Roboworm anthelmintic discovery platform. The most active compounds (L10 - pirarubicin > L8 – danunorubicin hydrochloride) were subsequently tested against juvenile (3 wk old) and mature (7 wk old) schistosome stages and found to impede motility, suppress egg production and affect tegumental surfaces. When compared to a surrogate human cell line (HepG2), a moderate window of selectivity was observed for the most active compound L10 (selectivity indices - 11 for schistosomula, 9 for juveniles, 1.5 for adults). Finally, RNA interference of SmLSD1 recapitulated the egg-laying defect of schistosomes co-cultivated in the presence of L10 and L8. These preliminary results suggest that SmLSD1 represents an attractive new target for schistosomiasis; identification of more potent and selective SmLSD1 compounds, however, is essential. Nevertheless, the approaches described herein highlight an interdisciplinary strategy for selecting and screening novel/repositioned anti-schistosomals, which can be applied to any druggable (epigenetic) target encoded by the parasite's genome.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)559-570
Number of pages12
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance
Issue number3
Early online date13 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 31 Dec 2018


  • anthelmintic drug discovery
  • neglected tropical diseases
  • Schistosoma mansoni
  • epigenetics
  • lysine specific demethylase
  • Neglected tropical diseases
  • Epigenetics
  • Anthelmintic drug discovery
  • Lysine specific demethylase
  • Humans
  • Computational Biology/methods
  • Epigenesis, Genetic/drug effects
  • Drug Delivery Systems
  • RNA Interference
  • Praziquantel/pharmacology
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni/drug therapy
  • Histone Methyltransferases/drug effects
  • Genomics/methods
  • Drug Discovery
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Animals
  • Histone Demethylases/drug effects
  • Schistosoma mansoni/drug effects
  • Mice
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Anthelmintics/therapeutic use


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