The repositioning of epigenetic probes/inhibitors identifies new anti-schistosomal lead compounds and chemotherapeutic targets

Kezia Whatley, Gilda Padalino, Helen Whiteland, Kathrin Karola Geyer, Benjamin James Hulme, Iain Chalmers, Josephine Forde-Thomas, Salvatore Ferla, Andrea Brancale, Karl Hoffmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Citations (SciVal)
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Praziquantel represents the frontline chemotherapy used to treat schistosomiasis, a neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by infection with macro-parasitic blood fluke schistosomes. While this drug is safe, its inability to kill all schistosome lifecycle stages within the human host often requires repeat treatments. This limitation, amongst others, has led to the search for novel anti-schistosome replacement or combinatorial chemotherapies. Here, we describe a repositioning strategy to assess the anthelmintic activity of epigenetic probes/inhibitors obtained from the Structural Genomics Consortium.

Methodology/Principle findings
Thirty-seven epigenetic probes/inhibitors targeting histone readers, writers and erasers were initially screened against Schistosoma mansoni schistosomula using the high-throughput Roboworm platform. At 10 μM, 14 of these 37 compounds (38%) negatively affected schistosomula motility and phenotype after 72 hours of continuous co-incubation. Subsequent dose-response titrations against schistosomula and adult worms revealed epigenetic probes targeting one reader (NVS-CECR2-1), one writer (LLY-507 and BAY-598) and one eraser (GSK-J4) to be particularly active. As LLY-507/BAY-598 (SMYD2 histone methyltransferase inhibitors) and GSK-J4 (a JMJD3 histone demethylase inhibitor) regulate an epigenetic process (protein methylation) known to be critical for schistosome development, further characterisation of these compounds/putative targets was performed. RNA interference (RNAi) of one putative LLY-507/BAY-598 S. mansoni target (Smp_000700) in adult worms replicated the compound-mediated motility and egg production defects. Furthermore, H3K36me2, a known product catalysed by SMYD2 activity, was also reduced by LLY-507 (25%), BAY-598 (23%) and siSmp_000700 (15%) treatment of adult worms. Oviposition and packaging of vitelline cells into in vitro laid eggs was also significantly affected by GSK-J4 (putative cell permeable prodrug inhibitor of Smp_034000), but not by the related structural analogue GSK-J1 (cell impermeable inhibitor).

Collectively, these results provide further support for the development of next-generation drugs targeting schistosome epigenetic pathway components. In particular, the progression of histone methylation/demethylation modulators presents a tractable strategy for anti-schistosomal control.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0007693
Number of pages24
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2019


  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics/pharmacology
  • Benzazepines/pharmacology
  • Computational Biology/methods
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Repositioning/methods
  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Female
  • Genomics
  • Hep G2 Cells
  • Histones/genetics
  • Humans
  • Jumonji Domain-Containing Histone Demethylases
  • Lead/pharmacology
  • Male
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Docking Simulation
  • Oviposition/drug effects
  • Pyrimidines/pharmacology
  • Schistosoma mansoni/drug effects
  • Schistosomatidae/drug effects
  • Schistosomiasis mansoni/drug therapy
  • Schistosomiasis/drug therapy


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