Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department

Medical Sciences

Major Professor

Dennis E. Kyle, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Burt Anderson, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Yu Chen, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Lynn Wecker, Ph.D.


Malaria, Primaquine, Drug Discovery, Mechanism of Action, Parasitology, Medicinal Chemistry


Malaria is a parasitic disease that is caused by the plasmodium parasite. Plasmodium infection has affected man for thousands of years. With advances in drug discovery over the past century, malaria has evolved to possess resistance to most mainline therapeutics. This war of drug discovery vs plasmodium evolution continues to be fought to this very day, with attempts to eradicate malaria worldwide. Frontline treatments such as chloroquine, artemisinin, and atovaquone/proguanil have all seen parasitic resistance in strains of P. vivax as well as P. falciparum. While plasmodium possesses resistance to most classes of anti-malarials, the 8-aminoquinoline (8-AQ) class has seen minimal resistance development. 8-AQs have been shown to be effective against erythrocytic and exo-erythrocytic forms of plasmodium, and are often given in combination with a blood schizonticide such as chloroquine or artemisinin. These combinations clear all forms of plasmodium infection. With 8-AQs unique set of anti-malarial properties and the advent of increased drug resistance to other drugs, much research is being done to understand 8-AQs mechanism of action and toxicity. 8-AQ use is limited due to inducing extreme hemolytic anemia in those with glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) deficiency. Primaquine is the only 8-AQ molecule available on the market with tafenoquine, an analog primaquine, currently in phase III clinical trials. It is believed that if the mechanism of action and toxicity of the 8-AQs are understood, then we can create new generation anti-malarials that will maintain the unique action of 8-AQs while reducing their toxicity. Studies have shown that 8-AQ mechanism of action has been attributed to the generation of unstable metabolites that induce ROS production in the parasite, as well as mitochondrial swelling. While there is some evidence suggesting molecular targets of 8-AQs, the actual target is still unknown. When 8-AQs is given in combination with chloroquine, a synergistic effect is observed. While chloroquine has no activity against liver stages, it still somehow potentiates primaquine’s activity in those stages. This mechanism of synergy in liver stages is not well understood, and its understanding can give us increased understanding of basic plasmodium biology in the liver. Additionally, more information about the mechanisms of action of both chloroquine and primaquine could be elucidated. Tagging drugs with fluorescent probes is a technique that can give much information about the drug’s pharmacological activity in vitro, and sometimes in vivo as well. Such an approach has been used for various disease states such as HIV and cancer. Malaria is no exception; fluorescent probes of artemisinin and chloroquine have been used to examine resistance mechanisms to both molecules. In addition to 8-AQs, there are other older antimalarials that have received attention recently due to increases in resistance. Menoctone, a hydroxynapthoquinone that subsequently lead to the discovery of atovaquone, has recently gained increased attention because of its similarities to atovaquone. Research surrounding menoctone was abandoned due to the discovery of more efficacious compounds. Similar to 8-AQs, understanding the mechanisms of action and resistance to menoctone could give us much more information about plasmodium responses to this class of compounds. This understanding could potentially lead to the discovery of novel therapeutics. To understand mechanisms of action and synergy of 8-AQs, we report the creation of novel fluorescent probes of the 8-AQ molecules primaquine and tafenoquine. The organic synthesis was designed and characterization was confirmed by NMR and high resolution mass spectra, and the fluorescent properties were examined using absorbance and steady-state emission experiments. We found that the anti-malarial, anti-leishmaniasis, and cytotoxic properties of these novel probes were similar to the parent compounds. These probes localized in the cytoplasm of infected parasites in vitro. We also attempted to view their localization in liver stage infection, and investigated the synergistic combination of 8-AQs with chloroquine and quinine. Menoctone resistance was induced in vivo to determine mechanisms of resistance. Cross resistance to atovaquone was observed, and the mutation responsible for resistance was also found.