Publications by authors named "Roberto Gimmelli"

13 Publications

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Drug effects on metabolic profiles of Schistosoma mansoni adult male parasites detected by 1H-NMR spectroscopy.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2020 10 12;14(10):e0008767. Epub 2020 Oct 12.

Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, National Research Council, Campus A. Buzzati-Traverso, Monterotondo (Rome) Italy.

Schistosomiasis is one of the most devastating neglected tropical parasitic diseases caused by trematodes of the genus Schistosoma. Praziquantel (PZQ) is today the only drug used in humans and animals for the treatment of schistosomiasis but unfortunately it is poorly effective on larval and juvenile stages of the parasite. Therefore, it is urgent the discovery of new drug targets and compounds. We have recently showed that the anti-anginal drug perhexiline maleate (PHX) is very active on multiple developmental stages of Schistosoma mansoni in vitro. It is well known that PHX impacts the lipid metabolism in mammals, but the final target on schistosomes still remains unknown. The aim of this study was to evaluate the ability of 1H nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) spectroscopy in revealing metabolic perturbations due to PHX treatment of S. mansoni adult male worms. The effects of PHX were compared with the ones induced by vehicle and gambogic acid, in order to detect different metabolic profiles and specificity of the PHX action. Remarkably a list of metabolites associated to PHX-treatment was identified with enrichment in several connected metabolic pathways including also the Kennedy pathway mediating the glycerophospholipid metabolism. Our study represents the first 1H-NMR metabolomic approach to characterize the response of S. mansoni to drug treatment. The obtained "metabolic fingerprint" associated to PHX treatment could represent a strategy for displaying cellular metabolic changes for any given drug and to compare compounds targeting similar or distinct biochemical pathways.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0008767DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7580944PMC
October 2020

(+)-(R)- and (-)-(S)-Perhexiline maleate: Enantioselective synthesis and functional studies on Schistosoma mansoni larval and adult stages.

Bioorg Chem 2020 09 30;102:104067. Epub 2020 Jun 30.

Department of Biotechnology, Chemistry and Pharmacy, University of Siena, via Aldo Moro 2, 53100 Siena, Italy. Electronic address:

Schistosomiasis is a neglected tropical disease mainly affecting the poorest tropical and subtropical areas of the world with the impressive number of roughly 200 million infections per year. Schistosomes are blood trematode flukes of the genus Schistosoma causing symptoms in humans and animals. Organ morbidity is caused by the accumulation of parasite eggs and subsequent development of fibrosis. If left untreated, schistosomiasis can result in substantial morbidity and even mortality. Praziquantel (PZQ) is the most effective and widely used compound for the treatment of the disease, in prevention and control programs in the last 30 years. Unfortunately, it has no effect on juvenile immature schistosomes and cannot prevent reinfection or interfere with the schistosome life cycle; moreover drug-resistance represents a serious threat. The search for an alternative or complementary treatment is urgent and drug repurposing could accelerate a solution. The anti-anginal drug perhexiline maleate (PHX) has been previously shown to be effective on larval, juvenile, and adult stages of S. mansoni and to impact egg production in vitro. Since PHX is a racemic mixture of R-(+)- and S-(-)-enantiomers, we designed and realized a stereoselective synthesis of both PHX enantiomers and developed an analytical procedure for the direct quantification of the enantiomeric excess also suitable for semipreparative separation of PHX enantiomers. We next investigated the impact of each enantiomer on viability of newly transformed schistosomula (NTS) and worm pairs of S. mansoni as well as on egg production and vitellarium morphology by in vitro studies. Our results indicate that the R-(+)-PHX is mainly driving the anti-schistosomal activity but that also the S-(-)-PHX possesses a significant activity towards S. mansoni in vitro.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bioorg.2020.104067DOI Listing
September 2020

Luminescence-Based, Low- and Medium-Throughput Assays for Drug Screening in Schistosoma mansoni Larval Stage.

Methods Mol Biol 2020 ;2151:219-227

National Research Council, Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, Rome, Italy.

Schistosomiasis is one of the major parasitic diseases with more than  200 million people infected worldwide every year. Praziquantel is the drug of choice against the schistosomiasis although the use of a single drug to treat such a large amount of infected people appears particularly worrisome. For this reason, the search of new schistosomicidal compounds is viewed as an urgent goal and a number of screening campaigns have been carried out in the past years. The larval stage of Schistosoma (schistosomula) has been widely used in order to identify new compounds against the parasite. Here we describe detailed practical procedures for a luminescence-based assay proven to be highly effective for the selection of schistosomicidal compounds on small and medium-high scale. The assay is based on the quantitation of the parasite ATP, a good indicator of metabolically active cells, as measure of schistosomula viability. This assay is fast and reproducible, and it is suitable either for manual or for semiautomated screenings.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-0716-0635-3_18DOI Listing
January 2020

Investigating the Antiparasitic Potential of the Marine Sesquiterpene Avarone, Its Reduced form Avarol, and the Novel Semisynthetic Thiazinoquinone Analogue Thiazoavarone.

Mar Drugs 2020 Feb 14;18(2). Epub 2020 Feb 14.

The NeaNat Group, Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples "Federico II", Via D. Montesano 49, 80131 Napoli, Italy.

The chemical analysis of the sponge afforded the known sesquiterpene quinone avarone, along with its reduced form avarol. To further explore the role of the thiazinoquinone scaffold as an antiplasmodial, antileishmanial and antischistosomal agent, we converted the quinone avarone into the thiazinoquinone derivative thiazoavarone. The semisynthetic compound, as well as the natural metabolites avarone and avarol, were pharmacologically investigated in order to assess their antiparasitic properties against sexual and asexual stages of , larval and adult developmental stages of (eggs included), and also against promastigotes and amastigotes of and . Furthermore, in depth computational studies including density functional theory (DFT) calculations were performed. A toxic semiquinone radical species which can be produced starting both from quinone- and hydroquinone-based compounds could mediate the anti-parasitic effects of the tested compounds.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/md18020112DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7074381PMC
February 2020

Thiazinoquinones as New Promising Multistage Schistosomicidal Compounds Impacting and Egg Viability.

ACS Infect Dis 2020 01 27;6(1):124-137. Epub 2019 Nov 27.

Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology , National Research Council , Campus A. Buzzati-Traverso, Via E. Ramarini 32 , 00015 Monterotondo (Rome) , Italy.

Schistosomiasis is the most significant neglected tropical parasitic disease caused by helminths in terms of morbidity and mortality caused by helminths. In this work, we present the antischistosomal activity against of a rationally selected small set of thiazinoquinone derivatives, some of which were previously found to be active against and others synthesized ad hoc. The effects on larvae, juvenile, and adult parasite viability as well as on egg production and development were investigated, resulting in the identification of new multistage antischistosomal hit compounds. The most promising compounds , , , and with a LC value on schistosomula from ∼5 to ∼15 μM also induced complete death of juvenile (28 days old) and adult worm pairs (7 weeks old) and a detrimental effect on egg production and development in vitro. Structure-activity relationships (SARs) were analyzed by means of computational studies leading to the hypothesis of a redox-based mechanism of action with a one-electron reduction bioactivation step and the subsequent formation of a toxic semiquinone species, similarly to what was previously observed for the antiplasmodial activity. Our results also evidenced that the selective toxicity against mammalian cells or parasites as well as specific developmental stages of a parasite can be addressed by varying the nature of the introduced substituents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsinfecdis.9b00252DOI Listing
January 2020

Screening and Phenotypical Characterization of Histone Deacetylase 8 (HDAC8) Inhibitors as Multistage Antischistosomal Agents.

ACS Infect Dis 2020 01 12;6(1):100-113. Epub 2019 Nov 12.

Institute of Biochemistry and Cell Biology (IBBC) , National Research Council (CNR) , Campus A. Buzzati-Traverso, via E. Ramarini 32 , 00015 Monterotondo ( Rome ), Italy.

Schistosomiasis (also known as bilharzia) is a neglected tropical disease caused by platyhelminths of the genus . The disease is endemic in tropical and subtropical areas of the world where water is infested by the intermediate parasite host, the snail. More than 800 million people live in endemic areas and more than 200 million are infected and require treatment. Praziquantel (PZQ) is the drug of choice for schistosomiasis treatment and transmission control being safe and very effective against adult worms of all the clinically relevant species. Unfortunately, it is ineffective on immature, juvenile worms; therefore, it does not prevent reinfection. Moreover, the risk of development and spread of drug resistance because of the widespread use of a single drug in such a large population represents a serious threat. Therefore, research aimed at identifying novel drugs to be used alone or in combination with PZQ are needed. histone deacetylase 8 (HDAC8) is a class I zinc-dependent HDAC, which is abundantly expressed in all stages of its life cycle, thus representing an interesting target for drug discovery. Through virtual screening and phenotypical characterization of selected hits, we discovered two main chemical classes of compounds characterized by the presence of a hydroxamate-based metal binding group coupled to a spiroindoline or a tricyclic thieno[3,2-]indole core as capping groups. Some of the compounds of both classes were deeply investigated and showed to impair viability of larval, juvenile, and adult schistosomes, to impact egg production and/or to induce morphological alterations of the adult schistosome reproductive systems. Noteworthy, all of them inhibit the recombinant form of HDAC8 enzyme . Overall, we identified very interesting scaffolds, paving the way to the development of effective antischistosomal agents.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1021/acsinfecdis.9b00224DOI Listing
January 2020

Chemical Investigation of the Indonesian Tunicate and Evaluation of the Effects Against of the Novel Alkaloids Polyaurines A and B.

Mar Drugs 2019 May 10;17(5). Epub 2019 May 10.

The NeaNat Group, Department of Pharmacy, University of Naples "Federico II", Via D. Montesano 49, 80131 Napoli, Italy.

A deep study of the metabolic content of the tunicate , collected from Indonesian coast, afforded the isolation of two novel alkaloids, polyaurines A () and B (), along with two new -substituted benzoyl derivatives ( and ) and four known compounds (-). The structural elucidation of the new secondary metabolites was assigned by 1D, 2D NMR, and HRESIMS techniques. Computational studies resulted a useful tool to unambiguously determine in polyaurine B the presence of rarely found 1,2,4-thiadiazole ring. The effects of polyaurines A and B on mammalian cells growth and on the viability of different blood-dwelling (phylum: Platyhelminthes) stages, as well as egg production, were evaluated. Both compounds resulted not cytotoxic; interestingly some of the eggs produced by polyaurine A-treated adult pairs in vitro are smaller, deformed, and/or fragmented; therefore, polyaurine A could represent an interesting bioactive natural molecule to be further investigated.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/md17050278DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6562961PMC
May 2019

Identification of novel multi-stage histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors that impair Schistosoma mansoni viability and egg production.

Parasit Vectors 2018 Dec 27;11(1):668. Epub 2018 Dec 27.

National Research Council, Institute of Cell Biology and Neurobiology, Campus A. Buzzati-Traverso, Monterotondo (Roma), Italy.

Background: Novel anti-schistosomal multi-stage drugs are needed because only a single drug, praziquantel, is available for the treatment of schistosomiasis and is poorly effective on larval and juvenile stages of the parasite. Schistosomes have a complex life-cycle and multiple developmental stages in the intermediate and definitive hosts. Acetylation and deacetylation of histones play pivotal roles in chromatin structure and in the regulation of transcription in eukaryotic cells. Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors modulate acetylation of several other proteins localized both in the nucleus and in the cytoplasm and therefore impact on many signaling networks and biological processes. Histone post-translational modifications may provide parasites with the ability to readily adapt to changes in gene expression required for their development and adaptation to the host environment. The aim of the present study was to screen a HDAC class I inhibitor library in order to identify and characterize novel multi-stage hit compounds.

Methods: We used a high-throughput assay based on the quantitation of ATP in the Schistosoma mansoni larval stage (schistosomula) and screened a library of 1500 class I HDAC inhibitors. Subsequently, a few hits were selected and further characterized by viability assays and phenotypic analyses on adult parasites by carmine red and confocal microscopy.

Results: Three compounds (SmI-124, SmI-148 and SmI-558) that had an effect on the viability of both the schistosomula larval stage and the adult worm were identified. Treatment with sub-lethal doses of SmI-148 and SmI-558 also decreased egg production. Moreover, treatment of adult parasites with SmI-148, and to a lesser extent Sm-124, was associated with histone hyperacetylation. Finally, SmI-148 and SmI-558 treatments of worm pairs caused a phenotype characterized by defects in the parasite reproductive system, with peculiar features in the ovary. In addition, SmI-558 induced oocyte- and vitelline cell-engulfment and signs of degeneration in the uterus and/or oviduct.

Conclusions: We report the screening of a small HDAC inhibitor library and the identification of three novel compounds which impair viability of the S. mansoni larval stage and adult pairs. These compounds are useful tools for studying deacetylase activity during parasite development and for interfering with egg production. Characterization of their specificity for selected S. mansoni versus human HDAC could provide insights that can be used in optimization and compound design.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s13071-018-3268-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6307185PMC
December 2018

Atm reactivation reverses ataxia telangiectasia phenotypes in vivo.

Cell Death Dis 2018 02 22;9(3):314. Epub 2018 Feb 22.

Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic and Orthopaedic Sciences, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy.

Hereditary deficiencies in DNA damage signaling are invariably associated with cancer predisposition, immunodeficiency, radiation sensitivity, gonadal abnormalities, premature aging, and tissue degeneration. ATM kinase has been established as a central player in DNA double-strand break repair and its deficiency causes ataxia telangiectasia, a rare, multi-system disease with no cure. So ATM represents a highly attractive target for the development of novel types of gene therapy or transplantation strategies. Atm tamoxifen-inducible mouse models were generated to explore whether Atm reconstitution is able to restore Atm function in an Atm-deficient background. Body weight, immunodeficiency, spermatogenesis, and radioresistance were recovered in transgenic mice within 1 month from Atm induction. Notably, life span was doubled after Atm restoration, mice were protected from thymoma and no cerebellar defects were observed. Atm signaling was functional after DNA damage in vivo and in vitro. In summary, we propose a new Atm mouse model to investigate novel therapeutic strategies for ATM activation in ataxia telangiectasia disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41419-018-0357-8DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5833483PMC
February 2018

Model of Murine Ventricular Cardiac Tissue for Kinematic-Dynamic Studies of Electromagnetic and -Adrenergic Stimulation.

J Healthc Eng 2017 8;2017:4204085. Epub 2017 Aug 8.

Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic and Orthopaedic Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy.

In a model of murine ventricular cardiac tissue , we have studied the inotropic effects of electromagnetic stimulation (frequency, 75 Hz), isoproterenol administration (10 M), and their combination. In particular, we have performed an image processing analysis to evaluate the kinematics and the dynamics of beating cardiac syncytia starting from the video registration of their contraction movement. We have found that the electromagnetic stimulation is able to counteract the -adrenergic effect of isoproterenol and to elicit an antihypertrophic response.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2017/4204085DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5591919PMC
July 2019

Discovery by organism based high-throughput screening of new multi-stage compounds affecting Schistosoma mansoni viability, egg formation and production.

PLoS Negl Trop Dis 2017 Oct 6;11(10):e0005994. Epub 2017 Oct 6.

National Research Council, Institute of Cell Biology and Neurobiology, Campus A. Buzzati-Traverso, Monterotondo (Roma), Italy.

Schistosomiasis, one of the most prevalent neglected parasitic diseases affecting humans and animals, is caused by the Platyhelminthes of the genus Schistosoma. Schistosomes are the only trematodes to have evolved sexual dimorphism and the constant pairing with a male is essential for the sexual maturation of the female. Pairing is required for the full development of the two major female organs, ovary and vitellarium that are involved in the production of different cell types such as oocytes and vitellocytes, which represent the core elements of the whole egg machinery. Sexually mature females can produce a large number of eggs each day. Due to the importance of egg production for both life cycle and pathogenesis, there is significant interest in the search for new strategies and compounds not only affecting parasite viability but also egg production. Here we use a recently developed high-throughput organism-based approach, based on ATP quantitation in the schistosomula larval stage of Schistosoma mansoni for the screening of a large compound library, and describe a pharmacophore-based drug selection approach and phenotypic analyses to identify novel multi-stage schistosomicidal compounds. Interestingly, worm pairs treated with seven of the eight compounds identified show a phenotype characterized by defects in eggshell assemblage within the ootype and egg formation with degenerated oocytes and vitelline cells engulfment in the uterus and/or oviduct. We describe promising new molecules that not only impair the schistosomula larval stage but also impact juvenile and adult worm viability and egg formation and production in vitro.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0005994DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5646872PMC
October 2017

β-Adrenergic response is counteracted by extremely-low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic fields in beating cardiomyocytes.

J Mol Cell Cardiol 2016 09 11;98:146-58. Epub 2016 Jul 11.

Department of Anatomical, Histological, Forensic and Orthopaedic Sciences, Sapienza University of Rome, Rome, Italy. Electronic address:

Proper β-adrenergic signaling is indispensable for modulating heart frequency. Studies on extremely-low-frequency pulsed electromagnetic field (ELF-PEMF) effects in the heart beat function are contradictory and no definitive conclusions were obtained so far. To investigate the interplay between ELF-PEMF exposure and β-adrenergic signaling, cultures of primary murine neonatal cardiomyocytes and of sinoatrial node were exposed to ELF-PEMF and short and long-term effects were evaluated. The ELF-PEMF generated a variable magnetic induction field of 0-6mT at a frequency of 75Hz. Exposure to 3mT ELF-PEMF induced a decrease of contraction rate, Ca(2+) transients, contraction force, and energy consumption both under basal conditions and after β-adrenergic stimulation in neonatal cardiomyocytes. ELF-PEMF exposure inhibited β-adrenergic response in sinoatrial node (SAN) region. ELF-PEMF specifically modulated β2 adrenergic receptor response and the exposure did not modify the increase of contraction rate after adenylate cyclase stimulation by forskolin. In HEK293T cells transfected with β1 or β2 adrenergic receptors, ELF-PEMF exposure induced a rapid and selective internalization of β2 adrenergic receptor. The β-adrenergic signaling, was reduced trough Gi protein by ELF-PEMF exposure since the phosphorylation level of phospholamban and the PI3K pathway were impaired after isoproterenol stimulation in neonatal cardiomyocytes. Long term effects of ELF-PEMF exposure were assessed in cultures of isolated cardiomyocytes. ELF-PEMF counteracts cell size increase, the generation of binucleated of cardiomyocytes and prevents the up-regulation of hypertrophic markers after β-adrenergic stimulation, indicating an inhibition of cell growth and maturation. These data show that short and long term exposure to ELF-PEMF induces a reduction of cardiac β-adrenergic response at molecular, functional and adaptative levels.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.yjmcc.2016.07.004DOI Listing
September 2016

Modulation of the cardiomyocyte contraction inside a hydrostatic pressure bioreactor: in vitro verification of the Frank-Starling law.

Biomed Res Int 2015 15;2015:542105. Epub 2015 Jan 15.

Dipartimento di Scienze Anatomiche, Istologiche, Medico-Legali e dell'Apparato Locomotore, Università "Sapienza", 00161 Roma, Italy.

We have studied beating mouse cardiac syncytia in vitro in order to assess the inotropic, ergotropic, and chronotropic effects of both increasing and decreasing hydrostatic pressures. In particular, we have performed an image processing analysis to evaluate the kinematics and the dynamics of those pressure-loaded beating syncytia starting from the video registration of their contraction movement. By this analysis, we have verified the Frank-Starling law of the heart in in vitro beating cardiac syncytia and we have obtained their geometrical-functional classification.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2015/542105DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4312577PMC
October 2015