Interference with Hemozoin Formation Represents an Important Mechanism of Schistosomicidal Action of Antimalarial Quinoline Methanols

BackgroundThe parasitic trematode Schistosoma mansoni is one of the major causative agents of human schistosomiasis, which afflicts 200 million people worldwide. Praziquantel remains the main drug used for schistosomiasis treatment, and reliance on the single therapy has been prompting the search for new therapeutic compounds against this disease. Our group has demonstrated that heme crystallization into hemozoin (Hz) within the S. mansoni gut is a major heme detoxification route with lipid droplets involved in this process and acting as a potential chemotherapeutical target. In the present work, we investigated the effects of three antimalarial compounds, quinine (QN), quinidine (QND) and quinacrine (QCR) in a murine schistosomiasis model by using a combination of biochemical, cell biology and molecular biology approaches.Methodology/Principal FindingsTreatment of S. mansoni-infected female Swiss mice with daily intraperitoneal injections of QN, and QND (75 mg/kg/day) from the 11th to 17th day after infection caused significant decreases in worm burden (39%–61%) and egg production (42%–98%). Hz formation was significantly inhibited (40%–65%) in female worms recovered from QN- and QND-treated mice and correlated with reduction in the female worm burden. We also observed that QN treatment promoted remarkable ultrastructural changes in male and female worms, particularly in the gut epithelium and reduced the granulomatous reaction to parasite eggs trapped in the liver. Microarray gene expression analysis indicated that QN treatment increased the expression of transcripts related to musculature, protein synthesis and repair mechanisms.ConclusionsThe overall significant reduction in several disease burden parameters by the antimalarial quinoline methanols indicates that interference with Hz formation in S. mansoni represents an important mechanism of schistosomicidal action of these compounds and points out the heme crystallization process as a valid chemotherapeutic target to treat schistosomiasis.Author SummaryHeme is an essential molecule to most living organisms, but once in a free state it exerts toxic effects. Blood-feeding organisms evolved efficient ways to detoxify free heme derived from hemoglobin digestion. A key mechanism present in some hematophagous organisms consists of the crystallization of heme into a pigment named hemozoin. Schistosoma mansoni is one of the etiologic agents of human schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that affects over 200 million people in tropical and subtropical areas. Hemozoin formation represents the main heme detoxification pathway in S. mansoni. Here, we report that the antimalarial quinoline methanols quinine and quinidine exert schistosomicidal effects notably due to their capacity to interfere with hemozoin formation. When quinine or quinidine were administered intraperitoneally during seven days to S. mansoni-infected mice (75 mg/kg/day), both worm and eggs burden were significantly reduced. Interestingly, hemozoin content in female worms was drastically affected after treatment with either compound. We also found that quinine caused important changes in the cellular organization of worm gastrodermis and increased expression of genes related to musculature, protein synthesis and repair mechanisms. Together, our results indicate that interference with hemozoin formation is a valid chemotherapeutic target for development of new schistosomicidal agents.