Antiprotozoal Activity of Thymoquinone (2-Isopropyl-5-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone) for the Treatment of Leishmania major-Induced Leishmaniasis: In Silico and In Vitro Studies

Kamal A. Qureshi, Mahrukh Imtiaz, Ibrahim Al Nasr, Waleed S. Koko, Tariq A. Khan, Mariusz Jaremko, Syed Mahmood, M. Qaiser Fatmi

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5 Scopus citations


Leishmaniasis, a neglected tropical parasitic disease (NTPD), is caused by various Leishmania species. It transmits through the bites of the sandfly. The parasite is evolving resistance to commonly prescribed antileishmanial drugs; thus, there is an urgent need to discover novel antileishmanial drugs to combat drug-resistant leishmaniasis. Thymoquinone (2-isopropyl-5-methyl-1,4-benzoquinone; TQ), a primary pharmacologically active ingredient of Nigella sativa (black seed) essential oil, has been reported to possess significant antiparasitic activity. Therefore, the present study was designed to investigate the in vitro and in silico antileishmanial activity of TQ against various infectious stages of Leishmania major (L. major), i.e., promastigotes and amastigotes, and its cytotoxicity against mice macrophages. In silico molecular dockings of TQ were also performed with multiple selected target proteins of L. major, and the most preferred antileishmanial drug target protein was subjected to in silico molecular dynamics (MD) simulation. The in vitro antileishmanial activity of TQ revealed that the half-maximal effective concentration (EC50), half-maximal cytotoxic concentration (CC50), and selectivity index (SI) values for promastigotes are 2.62 ± 0.12 μM, 29.54 ± 0.07 μM, and 11.27, while for the amastigotes, they are 17.52 ± 0.15 μM, 29.54 ± 0.07 μM, and 1.69, respectively. The molecular docking studies revealed that squalene monooxygenase is the most preferred antileishmanial drug target protein for TQ, whereas triosephosphate isomerase is the least preferred. The MD simulation revealed that TQ remained stable in the binding pocket throughout the simulation. Additionally, the binding energy calculations using Molecular Mechanics Generalized-Born Surface Area (MMGBSA) indicated that TQ is a moderate binder. Thus, the current study shows that TQ is a promising antileishmanial drug candidate that could be used to treat existing drug-resistant leishmaniasis.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1206
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 6 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-09-09
Acknowledgements: The APC was funded by King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Thuwal, Saudi Arabia. The authors are highly thankful to the Unaizah College of Pharmacy, Unaizah; College of Science and Arts, Ar Rass, Qassim University, Saudi Arabia; King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Thuwal, Saudi Arabia; and COMSATS University Islamabad, Islamabad, Pakistan for providing technical and financial support to this study.


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