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Keywords:

  • Falcipain;
  • Berghepain;
  • Animal model

Abstract

Falcipain-2A, the cysteine protease of Plasmodium falciparum has been proposed as a good drug target. This study evaluated the suitability of Plasmodium berghei as the animal model and reports the first functional expression and characterization of the falcipain-2A orthologue, berghepain-2. Comparative studies revealed that the orthologues exhibited different biochemical properties. Berghepain-2 demonstrated optimal activity at a narrower pH optima of 5.5–6 and a lack of preference for substrates with leucine at position 2. Mutagenesis studies revealed roles for residues Val63 and Arg230 of berghepain-2 in contributing to its distinctive biochemical properties. This warrants re-evaluation of employing P. berghei as the murine model for the in vivo screening of falcipain-2A inhibitors. More importantly, these findings stress the underlying importance of establishing the functionality of relevant genes of P. falciparum with concomitant relevance to its murine counterpart prior to its use as the animal model for the screening of potential antimalarials.