Druggable Sterol Metabolizing Enzymes in Infectious Diseases: Cell Targets to Therapeutic Leads


Sterol biosynthesis via the mevalonate-isoprenoid pathway produces ergosterol (24β-methyl cholesta-5,7-dienol) necessary for growth in a wide-range of eukaryotic pathogenic organisms in eukaryotes, including the fungi, trypanosomes and amoebae, while their animal hosts synthesize a structurally less complicated product—cholesterol (cholest-5-enol). Because phyla-specific differences in sterol metabolizing enzyme architecture governs the binding and reaction properties of substrates and inhibitors while the order of sterol metabolizing enzymes involved in steroidogenesis determine the positioning of crucial chokepoint enzymes in the biosynthetic pathway, the selectivity and effectiveness of rationally designed ergosterol biosynthesis inhibitors toward ergosterol-dependent infectious diseases varies greatly. Recent research has revealed an evolving toolbox of mechanistically distinct tight-binding inhibitors against two crucial methylation-demethylation biocatalysts—the C24 sterol methyl transferase (absent from humans) and the C14-sterol demethylase (present generally in humans and their eukaryotic pathogens). Importantly for rational drug design and development, the activities of these enzymes can be selectively blocked in ergosterol biosynthesis causing loss of ergosterol and cell killing without harm to the host organism. Here, we examine recent advances in our understanding of sterol biosynthesis and the reaction differences in catalysis for sterol methylation-demethylation enzymes across kingdoms. In addition, the novelties and nuances of structure-guided or mechanism-based approaches based on crystallographic mappings and substrate specificities of the relevant enzyme are contrasted to conventional phenotypic screening of small molecules as an approach to develop new and more effective pharmacological leads.


© 2024 by the authors. cc-by


CYP51, ergosterol-dependent diseases, fungi, irreversible enzyme inhibitors, sterol methyltransferase, trypanosomes


Nes, W.D., Chaudhuri, M., & Leaver, D.J.. 2024. Druggable Sterol Metabolizing Enzymes in Infectious Diseases: Cell Targets to Therapeutic Leads. Biomolecules, 14(3). https://doi.org/10.3390/biom14030249