BACKGROUND: Protozoan parasites of the genus Trypanosoma cause disease in a wide range of mammalian hosts. Trypanosoma brucei brucei, transmitted by tsetse fly to cattle, causes a disease (Nagana) of great economic importance in parts of Africa. T. b. brucei also serves as a model for related Trypanosoma species, which cause human sleeping sickness. MATERIALS AND METHODS: Chalcone and acyl hydrazide derivatives are known to retard the growth of Plasmodium falciparum in vitro and inhibit the malarial cysteine proteinase, falcipain. We tested the effects of these compounds on the growth of bloodstream forms of T. b. brucei in cell culture and in a murine trypanosomiasis model, and investigated their ability to inhibit trypanopain-Tb, the major cysteine proteinase of T. b. brucei. RESULTS: Several related chalcones, acyl hydrazides, and amides killed cultured bloodstream forms of T. b. brucei, with the most effective compound reducing parasite numbers by 50% relative to control populations at a concentration of 240 nM. The most effective inhibitors protected mice from an otherwise lethal T. b. brucei infection in an in vivo model of acute parasite infection. Many of the compounds also inhibited trypanopain-Tb, with the most effective inhibitor having a Ki value of 27 nM. Ki values for trypanopain-Tb inhibition were up to 50- to 100-fold lower than for inhibition of mammalian cathepsin L, suggesting the possibility of selective inhibition of the parasite enzyme. CONCLUSIONS: Chalcones, acyl hydrazides, and amides show promise as antitrypanosomal chemotherapeutic agents, with trypanopain-Tb possibly being one of their in vivo targets.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of the cattle disease Nagana and human African sleeping sickness. Glycoproteins play key roles in the parasite’s survival and infectivity, and the de novo biosyntheses of the sugar nucleotides UDP-galactose (UDP-Gal), UDP-N-acetylglucosamine, and GDP-fucose have been shown to be essential for their growth. The only route to UDP-Gal in T.
brucei is through the epimerization of UDP-glucose (UDP-Glc) by UDP-Glc 4′-epimerase. UDP-Glc is also the glucosyl donor for the unfolded glycoprotein glucosyltransferase (UGGT) involved in glycoprotein quality control in the endoplasmic reticulum and is the presumed donor for the synthesis of base J (β-d-glucosylhydroxymethyluracil), a rare deoxynucleotide found in telomere-proximal DNA in the bloodstream form of T.
brucei. Considering that UDP-Glc plays such a central role in carbohydrate metabolism, we decided to characterize UDP-Glc biosynthesis in T.
brucei. We identified and characterized the parasite UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase (TbUGP), responsible for the formation of UDP-Glc from glucose-1-phosphate and UTP, and localized the enzyme to the peroxisome-like glycosome organelles of the parasite. Recombinant TbUGP was shown to be enzymatically active and specific for glucose-1-phosphate. The high-resolution crystal structure was also solved, providing a framework for the design of potential inhibitors against the parasite enzyme.
kinetoplastids; sugar nucleotide metabolism; Trypanosoma brucei; UDP-glucose; UDP-glucose pyrophosphorylase
Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness and Nagana in cattle. In addition to being an important pathogen T. brucei has developed into a model system in cell biology.
Using Stable Isotope Labelling of Amino acids in Cell culture (SILAC) in combination with mass spectrometry we determined the abundance of >1600 proteins in the long slender (LS), short stumpy (SS) mammalian bloodstream form stages relative to the procyclic (PC) insect-form stage. In total we identified 2645 proteins, corresponding to ~30% of the total proteome and for the first time present a comprehensive overview of relative protein levels in three life stages of the parasite.
We can show the extent of pre-adaptation in the SS cells, especially at the level of the mitochondrial proteome. The comparison to a previously published report on monomorphic in vitro grown bloodstream and procyclic T. brucei indicates a loss of stringent regulation particularly of mitochondrial proteins in these cells when compared to the pleomorphic in vivo situation. In order to better understand the different levels of gene expression regulation in this organism we compared mRNA steady state abundance with the relative protein abundance-changes and detected moderate but significant correlation indicating that trypanosomes possess a significant repertoire of translational and posttranslational mechanisms to regulate protein abundance.
Trypanosoma brucei is a unicellular flagellated eukaryotic parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis in human and domestic animals with devastating health and economic consequences. Recent studies have revealed the important roles of the single flagellum of T. brucei in many aspects, especially that the flagellar motility is required for the viability of the bloodstream form T. brucei, suggesting that impairment of the flagellar function may provide a promising cure for African sleeping sickness. Knowing the flagellum proteome is crucial to study the molecular mechanism of the flagellar functions. Here we present a novel computational method for identifying flagellar proteins in T. brucei, called trypanosome flagellar protein predictor (TFPP). TFPP was developed based on a list of selected discriminating features derived from protein sequences, and could predict flagellar proteins with ∼92% specificity at a ∼84% sensitivity rate. Applied to the whole T. brucei proteome, TFPP reveals 811 more flagellar proteins with high confidence, suggesting that the flagellar proteome covers ∼10% of the whole proteome. Comparison of the expression profiles of the whole T. brucei proteome at three typical life cycle stages found that ∼45% of the flagellar proteins were significantly changed in expression levels between the three life cycle stages, indicating life cycle stage-specific regulation of flagellar functions in T. brucei. Overall, our study demonstrated that TFPP is highly effective in identifying flagellar proteins and could provide opportunities to study the trypanosome flagellar proteome systematically. Furthermore, the web server for TFPP can be freely accessed at http:/wukong.tongji.edu.cn/tfpp.
Nuclear DBF-2-related (NDR) kinases are essential regulators of cell cycle progression, growth, and development in many organisms and are activated by the binding of an Mps One Binder (MOB) protein partner, autophosphorylation, and phosphorylation by an upstream STE20 family kinase. In the protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis, the NDR kinase, PK50, is expressed in proliferative life cycle stages and was shown to complement a yeast NDR kinase mutant cell line. However, the function of PK50 and a second NDR kinase, PK53, in T. brucei has not been determined to date, although trypanosome MOB1 is known to be essential for cytokinesis, suggesting the NDR kinases may also be involved in this process. Here, we show that specific depletion of PK50 or PK53 from bloodstream stage trypanosomes resulted in the rapid accumulation of cells with two nuclei and two kinetoplasts, indicating that cytokinesis was specifically inhibited. This led to a deregulation of the cell cycle and cell death and provides genetic validation of these kinases as potential novel drug targets for human African trypanosomiasis. Recombinant active PK50 and PK53 were produced and biochemically characterized. Both enzymes autophosphorylated, were able to trans-phosphorylate generic kinase substrates in vitro, and were active in the absence of phosphorylation by an upstream kinase. Additionally, both enzymes were active in the absence of MOB1 binding, which was also demonstrated to likely be a feature of the kinases in vivo. Biochemical characterization of recombinant PK50 and PK53 has revealed key kinetic differences between them, and the identification of in vitro peptide substrates in this study paves the way for high throughput inhibitor screening of these kinases.
Phosphorylation/Kinases/Serine-Threonine; Signal Transduction/Protein Kinases/Serine/Threonine; Cell Division; Enzyme Kinetics; Parasitology; RNA Interference (RNAi); Trypanosoma brucei; Cytokinesis; Drug Target; NDR Kinase
Telomerase consists of a reverse transcriptase (TERT) and an RNA that contains a template for telomere-repeat extension. Telomerase is required to prevent telomere erosion and its activity or lack thereof is important for tumorigenesis and ageing. Telomerase has been identified in numerous organisms but it has not been studied in kinetoplastid protozoa. Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, evades the host immune response by frequently changing its variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). The single expressed VSG is transcribed from one of ∼20 subtelomeric ‘Expression Sites’, but the role telomeres might play in regulating VSG transcription and switching is unknown. We identified and sequenced the T.brucei TERT gene. Deleting TERT resulted in progressive telomere shortening of 3–6 bp per generation. In other organisms, the rate of telomere shortening is proportional to the length of the terminal 3′ single-strand overhang. In T.brucei, G-overhangs were undetectable (<30 nt) by in-gel hybridization. The rate of telomere shortening therefore, agrees with the predicted shortening due to the end replication problem, and is consistent with our observation that G-overhangs are short. Trypanosomes whose telomere length can be manipulated provide a new tool to investigate the role of telomeres in antigenic variation.
Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense is the causative agent of human African sleeping sickness. While the closely related subspecies T. brucei brucei is highly susceptible to lysis by a subclass of human high-density lipoproteins (HDL) called trypanosome lytic factor (TLF), T. brucei rhodesiense is resistant and therefore able to establish acute and fatal infections in humans. This resistance is due to expression of the serum resistance-associated (SRA) gene, a member of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) gene family. Although much has been done to establish the role of SRA in human serum resistance, the specific molecular mechanism of SRA-mediated resistance remains a mystery. Thus, we report the trafficking and steady-state localization of SRA in order to provide more insight into the mechanism of SRA-mediated resistance. We show that SRA traffics to the flagellar pocket of bloodstream-form T. brucei organisms, where it localizes transiently before being endocytosed to its steady-state localization in endosomes, and we demonstrate that the critical point of colocalization between SRA and TLF occurs intracellularly.
A high-resolution genetic linkage map of the STIB 386 strain of Trypanosoma brucei gambiense is presented.
Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of human sleeping sickness and animal trypanosomiasis in sub-Saharan Africa, and it has been subdivided into three subspecies: Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which cause sleeping sickness in humans, and the nonhuman infective Trypanosoma brucei brucei. T. b. gambiense is the most clinically relevant subspecies, being responsible for more than 90% of all trypanosomal disease in humans. The genome sequence is now available, and a Mendelian genetic system has been demonstrated in T. brucei, facilitating genetic analysis in this diploid protozoan parasite. As an essential step toward identifying loci that determine important traits in the human-infective subspecies, we report the construction of a high-resolution genetic map of the STIB 386 strain of T. b. gambiense.
The genetic map was determined using 119 microsatellite markers assigned to the 11 megabase chromosomes. The total genetic map length of the linkage groups was 733.1 cM, covering a physical distance of 17.9 megabases with an average map unit size of 24 kilobases/cM. Forty-seven markers in this map were also used in a genetic map of the nonhuman infective T. b. brucei subspecies, permitting comparison of the two maps and showing that synteny is conserved between the two subspecies.
The genetic linkage map presented here is the first available for the human-infective trypanosome T. b. gambiense. In combination with the genome sequence, this opens up the possibility of using genetic analysis to identify the loci responsible for T. b. gambiense specific traits such as human infectivity as well as comparative studies of parasite field populations.
Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of African sleeping sickness in humans and contributes to the debilitating disease ‘Nagana’ in cattle. To date we know little about the genes that determine drug resistance, host specificity, pathogenesis and virulence in these parasites. The availability of the complete genome sequence and the ability of the parasite to undergo genetic exchange have allowed genetic investigations into this parasite and here we report the first genetic map of T.brucei for the genome reference stock TREU 927, comprising of 182 markers and 11 major linkage groups, that correspond to the 11 previously identified chromosomes. The genetic map provides 90% probability of a marker being 11 cM from any given locus. Its comparison to the available physical map has revealed the average physical size of a recombination unit to be 15.6 Kb/cM. The genetic map coupled with the genome sequence and the ability to undertake crosses presents a new approach to identifying genes relevant to the disease and its prevention in this important pathogen through forward genetic analysis and positional cloning.
The African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei, is a zoonotic parasite transmitted by tsetse flies. Two of the three subspecies, T. brucei gambiense and T.b. rhodesiense, cause sleeping sickness in humans whereas the third subspecies, T.b. brucei, is not infective to humans. We propose that the key to understanding genetic relationships within this species is the analysis of gene flow to determine the importance of genetic exchange within populations and the relatedness of populations. T.brucei parasites undergo genetic exchange when present in infections of mixed genotypes in tsetse flies in the laboratory, although this is not an obligatory process. Infections of mixed genotype are surprisingly common in field isolates from tsetse flies such that there is opportunity for genetic exchange to occur. Population genetic analyses, taking into account geographical and host species of origin, show that genetic exchange occurs sufficiently frequently in the field to be an important determinant of genetic diversity, except where particular clones have acquired the ability to infect humans. Thus, T. brucei populations have an 'epidemic' genetic structure, but the better-characterized human-infective populations have a 'clonal' structure. Remarkably, the ability to infect humans appears to have arisen on multiple occasions in different geographical locations in sub-Saharan Africa. Our data indicate that the classical subspecies terminology for T. brucei is genetically inappropriate. It is an implicit assumption in most infectious disease biology that when a zoonotic pathogen acquires the capability to infect humans, it does so once and then spreads through the human population from that single-source event. For at least one major pathogen in tropical medicine, T. brucei, this assumption is invalid.
Sphingomyelin is the main sphingolipid in Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. In vitro and in vivo characterization of the T. brucei neutral sphingomyelinase demonstrates that it is directly involved in sphingomyelin catabolism. Gene knockout studies in the bloodstream form of the parasite indicate that the neutral sphingomyelinase is essential for growth and survival, thus highlighting that the de novo biosynthesis of ceramide is unable to compensate for the loss of sphingomyelin catabolism. The phenotype of the conditional knockout has given new insights into the highly active endocytic and exocytic pathways in the bloodstream form of T. brucei. Hence, the formation of ceramide in the endoplasmic reticulum affects post-Golgi sorting and rate of deposition of newly synthesized GPI-anchored variant surface glycoprotein on the cell surface. This directly influences the corresponding rate of endocytosis, via the recycling endosomes, of pre-existing cell surface variant surface glycoprotein. The trypanosomes use this coupled endocytic and exocytic mechanism to maintain the cell density of its crucial variant surface glycoprotein protective coat. TbnSMase is therefore genetically validated as a drug target against African trypanosomes, and suggests that interfering with the endocytic transport of variant surface glycoprotein is a highly desirable strategy for drug development against African trypanosomasis.
Many eukaryotic proteins are posttranslationally modified by the esterification of cysteine thiols to long-chain fatty acids. This modification, protein palmitoylation, is catalyzed by a large family of palmitoyl acyltransferases that share an Asp-His-His-Cys Cys-rich domain but differ in their subcellular localizations and substrate specificities. In Trypanosoma brucei, the flagellated protozoan parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, protein palmitoylation has been observed for a few proteins, but the extent and consequences of this modification are largely unknown. We undertook the present study to investigate T. brucei protein palmitoylation at both the enzyme and substrate levels. Treatment of parasites with an inhibitor of total protein palmitoylation caused potent growth inhibition, yet there was no effect on growth by the separate, selective inhibition of each of the 12 individual T. brucei palmitoyl acyltransferases. This suggested either that T. brucei evolved functional redundancy for the palmitoylation of essential palmitoyl proteins or that palmitoylation of some proteins is catalyzed by a noncanonical transferase. To identify the palmitoylated proteins in T. brucei, we performed acyl biotin exchange chemistry on parasite lysates, followed by streptavidin chromatography, two-dimensional liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry protein identification, and QSpec statistical analysis. A total of 124 palmitoylated proteins were identified, with an estimated false discovery rate of 1.0%. This palmitoyl proteome includes all of the known palmitoyl proteins in procyclic-stage T. brucei as well as several proteins whose homologues are palmitoylated in other organisms. Their sequences demonstrate the variety of substrate motifs that support palmitoylation, and their identities illustrate the range of cellular processes affected by palmitoylation in these important pathogens.
Trybizine hydrochloride [O,O′-bis(4,6-diamino-1,2-dihydro-2,2-tetramethylene-s-triazine-1-yl)-1,6-hexanediol dihydrochloride] was active in vitro against the sleeping sickness-causing agents Trypanosoma brucei subsp. rhodesiense and T. brucei subsp. gambiense; against a multidrug-resistant organism, T. brucei subsp. brucei; and against animal-pathogenic organisms Trypanosoma evansi, Trypanosoma equiperdum, and Trypanosoma congolense; but not against the intracellular parasites Trypanosoma cruzi and Leishmania donovani. Cytotoxic effects against mammalian cells were observed at approximately 106-fold higher concentrations than those necessary to inhibit T. brucei subsp. rhodesiense. Trybizine hydrochloride was able to eliminate T. brucei subsp. rhodesiense and T. brucei subsp. gambiense in an acute rodent model with four intraperitoneal doses of 0.25 mg kg of body weight−1 or four doses of 1 mg kg−1, respectively, or with four oral doses of 20 mg kg−1. The compound expressed activity against suramin-resistant T. evansi strains in mice. However, these concentrations were not sufficient to cure mice infected with multidrug-resistant T. brucei subsp. brucei. A late-stage rodent model with central nervous system involvement could not be cured, indicating that trybizine may not pass the blood-brain barrier in sufficient quantities.
African trypanosomes, i.e. Trypanosoma brucei and related sub-species, are devastating human and animal pathogens that cause significant human mortality and limit sustained economic development in sub-Saharan Africa. Trypanosoma brucei is a highly motile protozoan parasite and coordinated motility is central to both disease pathogenesis in the mammalian host and parasite development in the tsetse fly vector. Since motility is critical for parasite development and pathogenesis, understanding unique aspects of the T. brucei flagellum may uncover novel targets for therapeutic intervention in African sleeping sickness. Moreover, studies of conserved features of the T. brucei flagellum are directly relevant to understanding fundamental aspects of flagellum and cilium function in other eukaryotes, making T. brucei an important model system. The T. brucei flagellum contains a canonical 9 + 2 axoneme, together with additional features that are unique to kinetoplastids and a few closely-related organisms. Until recently, much of our knowledge of the structure and function of the trypanosome flagellum was based on analogy and inference from other organisms. There has been an explosion in functional studies in T. brucei in recent years, revealing conserved as well as novel and unexpected structural and functional features of the flagellum. Most notably, the flagellum has been found to be an essential organelle, with critical roles in parasite motility, morphogenesis, cell division and immune evasion. This review highlights recent discoveries on the T. brucei flagellum.
Flagellum; Cilium; Motility; Axoneme; Trypanosome; Dynein; Cytokinesis
HAT (human African trypanosomiasis), caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, is an emerging disease for which new drugs are needed. Expression of plasma membrane proteins [e.g. VSG (variant surface glycoprotein)] is crucial for the establishment and maintenance of an infection by T. brucei. Transport of a majority of proteins to the plasma membrane involves their translocation into the ER (endoplasmic reticulum). Thus inhibition of protein import into the ER of T. brucei would be a logical target for discovery of lead compounds against trypanosomes. We have developed a TbRM (T. brucei microsome) system that imports VSG_117 post-translationally. Using this system, MAL3-101, equisetin and CJ-21,058 were discovered to be small molecule inhibitors of VSG_117 translocation into the ER. These agents also killed bloodstream T. brucei in vitro; the concentrations at which 50% of parasites were killed (IC50) were 1.5 µM (MAL3-101), 3.3 µM (equisetin) and 7 µM (CJ-21,058). Thus VSG_117 import into TbRMs is a rapid and novel assay to identify ‘new chemical entities’ (e.g. MAL3-101, equisetin and CJ-21,058) for anti-trypanosome drug development.
drug development; endoplasmic reticulum (ER); protein import; microsome; Trypanosoma brucei
The evolutionarily ancient parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, is unusual in that the majority of its genes are regulated post-transcriptionally, leading to the suggestion that transcript abundance of most genes does not vary significantly between different life cycle stages despite the fact that the parasite undergoes substantial cellular remodelling and metabolic changes throughout its complex life cycle. To investigate this in the clinically relevant sub-species, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, which is the causative agent of the fatal human disease African sleeping sickness, we have compared the transcriptome of two different life cycle stages, the potentially human-infective bloodstream forms with the non-human-infective procyclic stage using digital gene expression (DGE) analysis.
Over eleven million unique tags were generated, producing expression data for 7360 genes, covering 81% of the genes in the genome. Compared to microarray analysis of the related T. b. brucei parasite, approximately 10 times more genes with a 2.5-fold change in expression levels were detected. The transcriptome analysis revealed the existence of several differentially expressed gene clusters within the genome, indicating that contiguous genes, presumably from the same polycistronic unit, are co-regulated either at the level of transcription or transcript stability.
DGE analysis is extremely sensitive for detecting gene expression differences, revealing firstly that a far greater number of genes are stage-regulated than had previously been identified and secondly and more importantly, this analysis has revealed the existence of several differentially expressed clusters of genes present on what appears to be the same polycistronic units, a phenomenon which had not previously been observed in microarray studies. These differentially regulated clusters of genes are in addition to the previously identified RNA polymerase I polycistronic units of variant surface glycoproteins and procyclin expression sites, which encode the major surface proteins of the parasite. This raises a number of questions regarding the function and regulation of the gene clusters that clearly warrant further study.
Protein prenylation occurs in the protozoan that causes African sleeping sickness (Trypanosoma brucei), and the protein farnesyltransferase appears to be a good target for developing drugs. We have cloned the α- and β-subunits of T. brucei protein farnesyltransferase (TB-PFT) using nucleic acid probes designed from partial amino acid sequences obtained from the enzyme purified from insect stage parasites. TB-PFT is expressed in both bloodstream and insect stage parasites. Enzymatically active TB-PFT was produced by heterologous expression in Escherichia coli. Compared with mammalian protein farnesyltransferases, TB-PFT contains a number of inserts of >25 residues in both subunits that reside on the surface of the enzyme in turns linking adjacent α-helices. Substrate specificity studies with a series of 20 peptides SSCALX (where X indicates a naturally occurring amino acid) show that the recombinant enzyme behaves identically to the native enzyme and displays distinct specificity compared with mammalian protein farnesyltransferase. TB-PFT prefers Gln and Met at the X position but not Ser, Thr, or Cys, which are good substrates for mammalian protein farnesyltransferase. A structural homology model of the active site of TB-PFT provides a basis for understanding structure-activity relations among substrates and CAAX mimetic inhibitors.
The genomes of the three parasitic protozoa Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major are the main subject of this study. These parasites are responsible for devastating human diseases known as Chagas disease, African sleeping sickness and cutaneous Leishmaniasis, respectively, that affect millions of people in the developing world. The prevalence of these neglected diseases results from a combination of poverty, inadequate prevention and difficult treatment. Protein phosphorylation is an important mechanism of controlling the development of these kinetoplastids. With the aim to further our knowledge of the biology of these organisms we present a characterisation of the phosphatase complement (phosphatome) of the three parasites.
An ontology-based scan of the three genomes was used to identify 86 phosphatase catalytic domains in T. cruzi, 78 in T. brucei, and 88 in L. major. We found interesting differences with other eukaryotic genomes, such as the low proportion of tyrosine phosphatases and the expansion of the serine/threonine phosphatase family. Additionally, a large number of atypical protein phosphatases were identified in these species, representing more than one third of the total phosphatase complement. Most of the atypical phosphatases belong to the dual-specificity phosphatase (DSP) family and show considerable divergence from classic DSPs in both the domain organisation and sequence features.
The analysis of the phosphatome of the three kinetoplastids indicates that they possess orthologues to many of the phosphatases reported in other eukaryotes, including humans. However, novel domain architectures and unusual combinations of accessory domains, suggest distinct functional roles for several of the kinetoplastid phosphatases, which await further experimental exploration. These distinct traits may be exploited in the selection of suitable new targets for drug development to prevent transmission and spread of the diseases, taking advantage of the already extensive knowledge on protein phosphatase inhibitors.
Glycosomes are a specialized form of peroxisomes (microbodies) present in unicellular eukaryotes that belong to the Kinetoplastea order, such as Trypanosoma and Leishmania species, parasitic protists causing severe diseases of livestock and humans in subtropical and tropical countries. The organelles harbour most enzymes of the glycolytic pathway that is responsible for substrate-level ATP production in the cell. Glycolysis is essential for bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei and enzymes comprising this pathway have been validated as drug targets. Glycosomes are surrounded by a single membrane. How glycolytic metabolites are transported across the glycosomal membrane is unclear.
We hypothesized that glycosomal membrane, similarly to membranes of yeast and mammalian peroxisomes, contains channel-forming proteins involved in the selective transfer of metabolites. To verify this prediction, we isolated a glycosomal fraction from bloodstream-form T.brucei and reconstituted solubilized membrane proteins into planar lipid bilayers. The electrophysiological characteristics of the channels were studied using multiple channel recording and single channel analysis. Three main channel-forming activities were detected with current amplitudes 70–80 pA, 20–25 pA, and 8–11 pA, respectively (holding potential +10 mV and 3.0 M KCl as an electrolyte). All channels were in fully open state in a range of voltages ±150 mV and showed no sub-conductance transitions. The channel with current amplitude 20–25 pA is anion-selective (PK+/PCl−∼0.31), while the other two types of channels are slightly selective for cations (PK+/PCl− ratios ∼1.15 and ∼1.27 for the high- and low-conductance channels, respectively). The anion-selective channel showed an intrinsic current rectification that may suggest a functional asymmetry of the channel's pore.
These results indicate that the membrane of glycosomes apparently contains several types of pore-forming channels connecting the glycosomal lumen and the cytosol.
The existence of an unusual form of DNA modification in the bloodstream form of the African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei has been inferred from partial resistance to cleavage of nuclear DNA with PstI and PvuII (Bernards et al, 1984; Pays et al, 1984). This putative modification is correlated with the shut-off of telomeric Variant-specific Surface Glycoprotein (VSG) gene expression sites (ESs). The modification only affects inactive VSG genes with a telomeric location, and it is absent in procyclic (insect form) trypanosomes in which no VSG is made at all. Previous attempts to detect unusual nucleosides in T.brucei DNA were unsuccessful, but we now report the detection of two unusual nucleotides, called pdJ and pdV, in T.brucei DNA, using the 32P-postlabeling technique. Nucleotide pdV was present in both bloodstream form and procyclic T.brucei DNA and co-migrated in two different two-dimensional thin layer chromatography (2D-TLC) systems with hydroxymethyldeoxyuridine 5'-monophosphate (pHOMedU). In contrast, nucleotide pdJ was exclusively present in bloodstream form trypanosomal DNA. Levels of pdJ were higher in DNA enriched for telomeric sequences than in total genomic DNA and pdJ was also detected in other Kinetoplastida species exhibiting antigenic variation. Postlabeling and 2D-TLC analyses showed base J to be different from the known eukaryotic unusual DNA bases 5-methylcytosine, N6-methyladenine and hydroxymethyluracil, and also from (glucosylated) hydroxymethylcytosine, uracil, alpha-putrescinylthymine, 5-dihydroxypentyluracil and N6-carbamoylmethyladenine. We conclude that pdJ is a novel eukaryotic DNA nucleotide and that it is probably responsible for the partial resistance to cleavage by PvuII and PstI of inactive telomeric VSG genes. It may therefore be involved in the regulation of ES activity in bloodstream form trypanosomes.
The African sleeping sickness parasite Trypanosoma brucei evades the host immune system through antigenic variation of its variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) coat. Although the T. brucei genome contains ∼1500 VSGs, only one VSG is expressed at a time from one of about 15 subtelomeric VSG expression sites (ESs). For antigenic variation to work, not only must the vast VSG repertoire be kept silent in a genome that is mainly constitutively transcribed, but the frequency of VSG switching must be strictly controlled. Recently it has become clear that chromatin plays a key role in silencing inactive ESs, thereby ensuring monoallelic expression of VSG. We investigated the role of the linker histone H1 in chromatin organization and ES regulation in T. brucei. T. brucei histone H1 proteins have a different domain structure to H1 proteins in higher eukaryotes. However, we show that they play a key role in the maintenance of higher order chromatin structure in bloodstream form T. brucei as visualised by electron microscopy. In addition, depletion of histone H1 results in chromatin becoming generally more accessible to endonucleases in bloodstream but not in insect form T. brucei. The effect on chromatin following H1 knock-down in bloodstream form T. brucei is particularly evident at transcriptionally silent ES promoters, leading to 6–8 fold derepression of these promoters. T. brucei histone H1 therefore appears to be important for the maintenance of repressed chromatin in bloodstream form T. brucei. In particular H1 plays a role in downregulating silent ESs, arguing that H1-mediated chromatin functions in antigenic variation in T. brucei.
Trypanosoma brucei causes African sleeping sickness, endemic to sub-Saharan Africa. Bloodstream form T. brucei is covered with a dense coat of variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). Only one VSG is expressed at a time out of a vast repertoire of ∼1500 VSGs. The active VSG is transcribed in a telomeric VSG expression site (ES), and VSG switching allows immune evasion. Exactly how monoallelic exclusion of VSG ESs operates, and how switching between ESs is mediated remains mysterious, although epigenetics and chromatin structure clearly play a major role. The linker histone H1 is thought to orchestrate higher order chromatin structure in eukaryotes, but its exact function is unclear. We investigated the role of histone H1 in the regulation of antigenic variation in T. brucei. We show that histone H1 is associated with chromatin and is required for higher order chromatin structure. Depletion of histone H1 results in derepression of silent VSG ES promoters, indicating that H1-mediated chromatin functions in antigenic variation in T. brucei.
Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. The cysteine proteases of T.brucei have been shown to be crucial for parasite replication and represent an attractive point for therapeutic intervention. Herein we describe the synthesis of a series of thiosemicarbazones and their activity against the trypanosomal cathepsins TbcatB and rhodesain, as well as human cathepsins L and B. The activity of these compounds was determined against cultured T.brucei, and specificity was assessed with a panel of four mammalian cell lines.
The Trypanosomatidae comprise a large group of parasitic protozoa, some of which cause important diseases in humans. These include Trypanosoma brucei (the causative agent of African sleeping sickness and nagana in cattle), Trypanosoma cruzi (the causative agent of Chagas' disease in Central and South America), and Leishmania spp. (the causative agent of visceral and [muco]cutaneous leishmaniasis throughout the tropics and subtropics). The cell surfaces of these parasites are covered in complex protein- or carbohydrate-rich coats that are required for parasite survival and infectivity in their respective insect vectors and mammalian hosts. These molecules are assembled in the secretory pathway. Recent advances in the genetic manipulation of these parasites as well as progress with the parasite genome projects has greatly advanced our understanding of processes that underlie secretory transport in trypanosomatids. This article provides an overview of the organization of the trypanosomatid secretory pathway and connections that exist with endocytic organelles and multiple lytic and storage vacuoles. A number of the molecular components that are required for vesicular transport have been identified, as have some of the sorting signals that direct proteins to the cell surface or organelles in the endosome-vacuole system. Finally, the subcellular organization of the major glycosylation pathways in these parasites is reviewed. Studies on these highly divergent eukaryotes provide important insights into the molecular processes underlying secretory transport that arose very early in eukaryotic evolution. They also reveal unusual or novel aspects of secretory transport and protein glycosylation that may be exploited in developing new antiparasite drugs.
Trypanosoma brucei is a member of the early-diverged, protistan family Trypanosomatidae and a lethal parasite causing African Sleeping Sickness in humans. Recent studies revealed that T. brucei harbors extremely divergent orthologues of the general transcription factors TBP, TFIIA, TFIIB and TFIIH and showed that these factors are essential for initiating RNA polymerase II-mediated synthesis of spliced leader (SL) RNA, a trans splicing substrate and key molecule in trypanosome mRNA maturation. In yeast and metazoans, TFIIH is composed of a core of seven conserved subunits and the ternary cyclin-activating kinase (CAK) complex. Conversely, only four TFIIH subunits have been identified in T. brucei. Here, we characterize the first protistan TFIIH which was purified in its transcriptionally active form from T. brucei extracts. The complex consisted of all seven core subunits but lacked the CAK sub-complex; instead it contained two trypanosomatid-specific subunits, which were indispensable for parasite viability and SL RNA gene transcription. These findings were corroborated by comparing the molecular structures of trypanosome and human TFIIH. While the ring-shaped core domain was surprisingly congruent between the two structures, trypanosome TFIIH lacked the knob-like CAK moiety and exhibited extra densities on either side of the ring, presumably due to the specific subunits.
Trypanosoma brucei brucei is the causative agent of nagana in cattle and can infect a wide range of mammals but is unable to infect humans because it is susceptible to the innate cytotoxic activity of normal human serum. A minor subfraction of human high-density lipoprotein (HDL) containing apolipoprotein A-I (apoA-I), apolipoprotein L-I (apoL-I), and haptoglobin-related protein (Hpr) provides this innate protection against T. b. brucei infection. This HDL subfraction, called trypanosome lytic factor (TLF), kills T. b. brucei following receptor binding, endocytosis, and lysosomal localization. Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which is morphologically and physiologically indistinguishable from T. b. brucei, is resistant to TLF-mediated killing and causes human African sleeping sickness. Human infectivity by T. b. rhodesiense correlates with the evolution of a resistance-associated protein (SRA) that is able to ablate TLF killing. To examine the mechanism of TLF resistance, we transfected T. b. brucei with an epitope-tagged SRA gene. Transfected T. b. brucei expressed SRA mRNA at levels comparable to those in T. b. rhodesiense and was highly resistant to TLF. In the SRA-transfected cells, intracellular trafficking of TLF was altered, with TLF being mainly localized to a subset of SRA-containing cytoplasmic vesicles but not to the lysosome. These results indicate that the cellular distribution of TLF is influenced by SRA expression and may directly determine the organism's susceptibility to TLF.