Artemisinin is a plant sesquiterpene lactone that has become an important drug for combating malaria, especially in regions where resistance to other drugs is widespread. While the mechanism of action is debated, artemisinin has been reported to inhibit the sarcoplasmic endoplasmic reticulum Ca2+ ATPase (SERCA) in the malaria parasite. Artemisinin is also effective against Toxoplasma in vitro and in vivo, although it is less potent and, hence, is generally not used therapeutically to treat toxoplasmosis. To explore the mechanism of action, we generated chemically derived mutants of Toxoplasma gondii that were resistant to growth inhibition by this compound in vitro. Three artemisinin-resistant (ARTr) mutant clones that differed in their sensitivities in vitro by three- to fivefold compared with that of the wild-type parasites were obtained. ARTr mutants were cross-resistant to other derivatives of artemisinin, the most potent of which was artemisone. Resistance was not due to molecular alterations or differences in the expression of SERCA or other putative targets, such as proteins that code for multidrug resistance or translationally controlled tumor protein. ARTr mutants were resistant to the induction of protein secretion from micronemes, a calcium-dependent process that is triggered by artemisinin. ARTr mutants were not cross-resistant to secretion induced by thapsigargin but were more sensitive and were unable to regulate cytoslic calcium following treatment with this compound. These studies implicate calcium homeostasis in the mechanism of action of artemisinins against apicomplexan parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3816-3823
Number of pages8
JournalAntimicrobial agents and chemotherapy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2007


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