Background: Malaria, an infectious disease transmitted by mosquitoes, has affected the world since the beginning of recorded human history and it remains an ensconced global health challenge even today. Among the various proteases, expressed in the life cycle of parasite, cysteine protease falcipain-2 plays a pivotal role in parasite food assimilation and inhibition of this protease cause deleterious effects on the growth of parasite. Methods: Employing a ligand-based approach, 1-(4-(substituted)piperazin-1-yl)-2-(phenylamino)ethanone derivatives were designed and synthesized from the starting material piperazine in a sequence of reactions. Structural assignments are based on spectral data (1H NMR, mass) and elemental analyses. The purity of the final compounds was confirmed by HPLC. The compounds were tested for their in vitro falcipain-2 inhibitor activity on recombinant falcipain-2 enzyme. Furthermore, molecular docking studies were performed using Glide 5.9 software to incur a precise picture of the active ligand at the atomic level which will be helpful in the discovery of new antimalarial drugs. Results: Among the screening results of seventeen novel entities, three compounds (6h, 6n and 6o) have showed good inhibitory activity and eleven compounds were showed weak to moderate inhibitor activity. Docking studies for these active analogues revealed that the amino acids Trp 206, Ile 85, Leu 84, Val 152 most commonly involved in hydrophobic interactions and Asn 173, Cys 42, Gln 36, amino acids involved in hydrogen bonding. Conclusion: The preliminary structure-activity relationships indicated that compound 6h, is the most potent compound from this series, and it can be used as a potential lead compound in the designing of new candidates to optimize the inhibitory potencies of this class of compounds, and potentially with potent antimalarial activity.
Key words: Antimalarial, Falcipain-2, Ligand-based drug design, Plasmodium falciparum.