Volume 62, Issue 1
  • ISSN: 0002-9637
  • E-ISSN: 1476-1645


The erythrocytic development of Plasmodium falciparum is divided into the ring, trophozoite, and schizont stages based on morphologic assessment. Using highly synchronous ring and trophozoite cultures of P. falciparum, we observed considerable differences in their sensitivity to hydroxyxanthones: trophozoites were much more sensitive to the drugs than ring-stage parasites. Trophozoites treated with a prototypic xanthone, the 2,3,4,5,6-pentahydroxy derivative (X5), were arrested in their development and became degenerate in appearance within 24 hr of drug exposure. These morphologic changes appeared to reflect the cytotoxic nature of the action of the drug against the parasite, since daughter ring-stage forms were not observed following addition of the drug. That X5 was more active against parasites in the later stages of intraerythrocytic development is consistent with the proposed mode of action, inhibition of heme polymerization. Knowledge of the structure-activity relationships for xanthones as antimalarial agents has also been expanded. Xanthones with a hydroxyl group in the peri-position exhibited decreased antimalarial activity, possibly due to intramolecular hydrogen bonding with the carbonyl and consequent reduced affinity for heme. Paired hydroxyls attached to the lower half of the xanthone greatly enhanced drug potency.


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