Atovaquone and ELQ-300 combination therapy as a novel dual-site cytochrome bc1 inhibition strategy for malaria

Allison M. Stickles, Martin J. Smilkstein, Joanne M. Morrisey, Yuexin Li, Isaac P. Forquer, Jane X. Kelly, Sovitj Pou, Rolf W. Winter, Aaron Nilsen, Akhil B. Vaidya, Michael K. Riscoe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Antimalarial combination therapies play a crucial role in preventing the emergence of drug-resistant Plasmodium parasites. Although artemisinin-based combination therapies (ACTs) comprise the majority of these formulations, inhibitors of the mitochondrial cytochrome bc1 complex (cyt bc1) are among the few compounds that are effective for both acute antimalarial treatment and prophylaxis. There are two known sites for inhibition within cyt bc1: atovaquone (ATV) blocks the quinol oxidase (Qo) site of cyt bc1, while some members of the endochin-like quinolone (ELQ) family, including preclinical candidate ELQ-300, inhibit the quinone reductase (Qi) site and retain full potency against ATV-resistant Plasmodium falciparum strains with Qo site mutations. Here, we provide the first in vivo comparison of ATV, ELQ-300, and combination therapy consisting of ATV plus ELQ-300 (ATV:ELQ-300), using P. yoelii murine models of malaria. In our monotherapy assessments, we found that ATV functioned as a single-dose curative compound in suppressive tests whereas ELQ-300 demonstrated a unique cumulative dosing effect that successfully blocked recrudescence even in a high-parasitemia acute infection model. ATV:ELQ-300 therapy was highly synergistic, and the combination was curative with a single combined dose of 1 mg/kg of body weight. Compared to the ATV: proguanil (Malarone) formulation, ATV:ELQ-300 was more efficacious in multiday, acute infection models and was equally effective at blocking the emergence of ATV-resistant parasites. Ultimately, our data suggest that dual-site inhibition of cyt bc1 is a valuable strategy for antimalarial combination therapy and that Qi site inhibitors such as ELQ-300 represent valuable partner drugs for the clinically successful Qo site inhibitor ATV.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4853-4859
Number of pages7
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)
  • Infectious Diseases


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