Chagas disease, caused by Trypanosoma cruzi, is a widespread infection in Latin America. Currently, only 2 partially effective and highly toxic drugs, i.e., benznidazole and nifurtimox, are available for the treatment of this disease, and several efforts are underway in the search for better chemotherapeutic agents. Here, we have determined the trypanocidal activity of 2,3-diphenyl-1,4-naphthoquinone (DPNQ), a novel quinone derivative. In vitro, DPNQ was highly cytotoxic at a low, micromolar concentration (LD50 = 2.5 μM) against epimastigote, cell-derived trypomastigote, and intracellular amastigote forms of T. cruzi, but not against mammalian cells (LD50 = 130 μM). In vivo studies on the murine model of Chagas disease revealed that DPNQ-treated animals (3 doses of 10 mg/kg/day) showed a significant delay in parasitemia peak and higher (up to 60%) survival rate 70 days post-infection, when compared with the control group (infected, untreated). We also observed a 2-fold decrease in parasitemia between the control group (infected, untreated) and the treated group (infected, treated). No apparent drug toxicity effects were noticed in the control group (uninfected, treated). In addition, we determined that DPNQ is the first competitive inhibitor of T. cruzi lipoamide dehydrogenase (TcLipDH) thus far described. Our results indicate that DPNQ is a promising chemotherapeutic agent against T. cruzi.
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