Characterisation of melarsen-resistant Trypanosoma brucei brucei with respect to cross-resistance to other drugs and trypanothione metabolism

Alan H. Fairlamb, Nicola S. Carter, Mark Cunningham, Keith Smith

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84 Scopus citations


An arsenical resistant cloned line of Trypanosoma brucei brucei was derived from a parent sensitive clone by repeated selection in vivo with the pentavalent melaminophenyl arsenical, sodium melarsen. The melarsen-resistant line was tested in vivo in mice against a range of trypanocidal compounds and found to be cross-resistant to the trivalent arsenicals, melarsen oxide, melarsoprol and trimelarsen (33, 67 and 122-fold, respectively). A similar pattern of cross-resistance was found in vitro using a spectrophotometric lysis assay (> 200-fold resistance to melarsen oxide and > 20-fold resistance to both trimelarsen and melarsoprol). Both lines were equally sensitive to lysis by the lipophilic analogue phenylarsine oxide in vitro, suggesting that the melamine moiety is involved in the resistance mechanism. Although trypanothione has been reported to be the primary target for trivalent arsenical drugs [1], levels of trypanothione and glutathione were not significantly different between the resistant and sensitive lines. Statistically significant differences were found in the levels of trypanothione reductase (50% lower in the resistant clone) and dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (38% higher in the resistant clone). However, the Km for trypanothione disulphide, the Ki for the competitive inhibitor Mel T (the melarsen oxide adduct with trypanothione) and the pseudo-first order inactivation rates with melarsen oxide were the same for trypanothione reductase purified from both clones. The melarsen-resistant line also showed varying degrees of cross-resistance to the diamidines: stilbamidine (38-fold), berenil (31.5-fold), propamidine (5.7-fold) and pentamidine (1.5-fold). Cross-resistance correlates with the maximum interatomic distance between the amidine groups of these drugs and suggests that the diamidines and melaminophenyl arsenicals are recognised by the same transport system.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)213-222
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - Jul 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Arsenical drug
  • Diamidine
  • Drug effects
  • Drug resistance
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei
  • Trypanothione reductase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Molecular Biology


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