The steroid derivative 6-aminocholestanol inhibits the DEAD-box helicase eIF4A (LieIF4A) from the Trypanosomatid parasite Leishmania by perturbing the RNA and ATP binding sites. Abdelkrim et al., 2018
The antifungal agent 6-aminocholestanol targets the production of ergosterol, which is the principle sterol in many fungi and protozoans; ergosterol serves many of the same roles as cholesterol in animals. We found that it also is an effective inhibitor of the translation-initiation factor eIF4AI from mouse (eIF4AIMus) and the Trypanosomatid parasite Leishmania (LieIF4A). The eIF4A proteins belong to the DEAD-box family of RNA helicases, which are ATP-dependent RNA-binding proteins and RNA-dependent ATPases. DEAD-box proteins contain a commonly-shared core structure consisting of two linked domains with structural homology to that of recombinant protein A (RecA) and that contain conserved motifs that are involved in RNA and ATP binding, and in the enzymatic activity. The compound inhibits both the ATPase and helicase activities by perturbing ATP and RNA binding, and it is capable of binding other proteins containing nucleic acid-binding sites as well. We undertook kinetic analyses and found that the Leishmania LieIF4A protein binds 6-aminocholestanol with a higher apparent affinity than for ATP, although multiple binding sites were probably involved. Competition experiments with the individual RecA-like domains indicate that the primary binding sites are on RecA-like domain 1, and they include a cavity that we previously identified by molecular modeling of LieIF4A that involve conserved RNA-binding motifs. The compound affects the mammalian and Leishmania proteins differently, which indicates the binding sites and affinities are not the same. Thus, it is possible to develop drugs that target DEAD-box proteins from different organisms even when they are implicated in the same biological process.