Iron(III) protoporphyrin IX complexes of the antimalarial cinchona alkaloids quinine and quinidine

De Villiers K.A. ; Gildenhuys J. ; Le Roex T. (2012)


The antimalarial properties of the Cinchona alkaloids quinine and quinidine have been known for decades. Surprisingly, 9-epiquinine and 9-epiquinidine are almost inactive. A lack of definitive structural information has precluded a clear understanding of the relationship between molecular structure and biological activity. In the current study, we have determined by single crystal X-ray diffraction the structures of the complexes formed between quinine and quinidine and iron(III) protoporphyrin IX (Fe(III)PPIX). Coordination of the alkaloid to the Fe(III) center is a key feature of both complexes, and further stability is provided by an intramolecular hydrogen bond formed between a propionate side chain of Fe(III)PPIX and the protonated quinuclidine nitrogen atom of either alkaloid. These interactions are believed to be responsible for inhibiting the incorporation of Fe(III)PPIX into crystalline hemozoin during its in vivo detoxification. It is also possible to rationalize the greater activity of quinidine compared to that of quinine. © 2012 American Chemical Society.

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