High throughput <i>in silico</i> identification and characterization of <i>Plasmodium falciparum</i> PRL phosphatase inhibitors

<p>Kinases and phosphatases are involved in many essential processes in <i>Plasmodium</i> lifecycle. Among the identified 67 <i>Plasmodium falciparum</i> phosphatases, Phosphatase of Regenerating Liver (PRL) family protein homolog, PfPRL, is an essential parasite tyrosine phosphatase. PfPRL is shown to be prenylated, secreted, and involved in the host invasion process. In the present study, a structure-based high throughput <i>in silico</i> screening of PfPRL binders, using ChEMBL-NTD compounds lead to the identification of nine compounds based on binding energy, Lipinski rule of five, and QED score. The most of the shortlisted compounds are known to inhibit parasite growth at a concentration (EC50) ≤2 μm in <i>in vitro P. falciparum</i> culture assays. MD simulations were carried out on the shortlisted nine potential enzyme–inhibitor complexes to analyze specificity, stability, and to calculate the free binding energies of the complexes. The study identifies PfPRL as one of the potential drug targets for selected ChEMBL-NTD compounds that may be exploited as a scaffold to develop novel antimalarials.</p>