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Title: Integrating chemical, biological and phylogenetic spaces of African natural products to understand their therapeutic activity
Author: Baldo, Fatima Magdi Hamza
ISNI:       0000 0004 7651 2782
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2019
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This research aims to utilise ligand-based target prediction to (i) understand the mechanism of action of African natural products (ANPs), (ii) help identify patterns of phylogenetic use in African traditional medicine and (iii) elucidate the mechanism of action of phenotypically active small molecules and natural products with anti-trypanosomal activity. In Chapter 2 the objective was to utilise ligand-based target prediction to understand the mechanism of action of natural products (NPs) from African medicinal plants used against cancer. The Random Forest classifier used in this work compares the similarity of the input compounds from the natural product dataset with compound-target combinations in the training set. The more similar they are in structure, the more likely they are to modulate the same target. Natural products from plants used against cancer in Africa were predicted to modulate targets and pathways directly associated with the disease, thus understanding their mechanism of action e.g. "flap endonuclease 1" and "Mcl-1". The "Keap1-Nrf2 Pathway" and "apoptosis modulation by HSP70", two pathways previously linked to cancer (which are not currently targeted by marketed drugs, but have been of increasing interest in recent years) were predicted to be modulated by ANPs. In Chapter 3, we aimed to identify phylogenetic patterns in medicinal plant use and the role this plays in predicting medicinal activity. We combined chemical, predicted target and phylogenetic information of the natural products to identify patterns of use for plant families containing plant species used against cancer in African, Malay and Indian (Ayurveda) traditional medicine. Plant families that are close phylogenetically were found to produce similar natural products that act on similar targets regardless of their origin. Additionally, phylogenetic patterns were identified for African traditional plant families with medicinal species used against cancer, malaria and human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). We identified plant families that have more medicinal species than would statistically be expected by chance and rationalised this by linking their activity to their unique phyto-chemistry e.g. the napthyl-isoquinoline alkaloids, uniquely produced by Acistrocladaceae and Dioncophyllaceae, are responsible for anti-malarial and anti-trypanosome activity. In Chapter 4, information from target prediction and experimentally validated targets was combined with orthologue data to predict targets of phenotypically active small molecules and natural products screened against Trypanosoma brucei. The predicted targets were prioritised based on their essentiality for the survival of the T. brucei parasite. We predicted orthologues of targets that are essential for the survival of the trypanosome e.g. glycogen synthase kinase 3 (GSK3) and rhodesain. We also identified the biological processes predicted to be perturbed by the compounds e.g. "glycolysis", "cell cycle", "regulation of symbiosis, encompassing mutualism through parasitism" and "modulation of development of symbiont involved in interaction with host". In conclusion, in silico target prediction can be used to predict protein targets of natural products to understand their molecular mechanism of action. Phylogenetic information and phytochemical information of medicinal plants can be integrated to identify plant families with more medicinal species than would be expected by chance.
Supervisor: Bender, Andreas Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Target Prediction ; African Natural Products ; Cancer ; Human African Trypanosomiasis