Leishmania mexicana cysteine peptidases (CPs) have been identified as important parasite virulence factors. More recently, a natural inhibitor of CPs (ICP) from L. mexicana has been characterized, and ICP mutants have been created. Infection of BALB/c mice with ICP null mutants or ICP reexpressing mutants resulted in nonhealing, progressively growing lesions albeit slightly attenuated compared with the growth of lesions produced by wild-type parasites. In contrast, BALB/c mice infected with mutants overexpressing ICP were able to significantly control lesion growth or heal. While BALB/c mice infected with wild-type parasites, ICP null mutants, or ICP reexpressing mutants produced significant antibody responses, including immunoglobulin E (IgE), no Th1 response, as indicated by antigen-induced splenocyte gamma interferon (IFN-γ) production, could be demonstrated. In contrast, BALB/c mice infected with mutants overexpressing ICP produced significantly less antibody, particularly IgE, as well as significantly reduced splenocyte interleukin-4 and enhanced IFN-γ production. BALB/c mice were able to resolve infection following infection with one ICP overexpressing clone, which was subsequently used for vaccination studies with BALB/c mice. However, no protection was afforded these mice when they were challenged with wild-type parasites. Nevertheless, two other mouse strains susceptible to L. mexicana, C3H and C57BL/6, vaccinated with overexpressing ICP mutants were able to control challenge infection associated with an enhanced Th1 response. This study confirms that L. mexicana CPs are virulence factors and that ICPs have therapeutic potential.
The biological role of a natural inhibitor of cysteine peptidases (designated ICP) of Leishmania has been investigated by genetic manipulation of the parasite. Null mutants grew normally in vitro, were as infective to macrophages in vitro as wild-type parasites, but had reduced infectivity to mice. Mutants re-expressing ICP from a single gene gave partial restoration of virulence in vivo, whereas mutants over-expressing ICP secreted the inhibitor and showed markedly reduced virulence in mice. Promastigotes of the null mutants had similar cysteine peptidase activities as the wild-type parasites, suggesting that ICP is not required for the expression or processing of the enzymes. The only proteins found to bind to ICP in promastigote cell lysates were fully processed forms of CPA and CPB, showing that ICP does not bind in abundance either to zymogens of the cysteine peptidases or other leishmanial proteins. However, only a small proportion of ICP co-localised with CPA and CPB in the promastigote (in the endoplasmic reticulum and Golgi) and the majority of ICP resided in vesicles that are apparently distinct from endosomes and the multivesicular tubule (MVT)-lysosome. These data suggest that ICP has a role other than modulation of the activity of the parasite's own cysteine peptidases and their normal trafficking to the MVT-lysosome via the flagellar pocket. The finding that ICP partially co-localised with an endocytosed cysteine peptidase leads us to postulate that ICP has a role in protection of the parasite against the hydrolytic environment of the sandfly gut and/or the parasitophorous vacuole of host macrophages.
cysteine peptidase inhibitor; ICP; chagasin; lysosomes; endosomes; Leishmania
Clan CA, family C1 cysteine peptidases (CPs) are important virulence factors and drug targets in parasites that cause neglected diseases. Natural CP inhibitors of the I42 family, known as ICP, occur in some protozoa and bacterial pathogens, but are absent from metazoa. They are active against both parasite and mammalian CPs, despite having no sequence similarity with other classes of CP inhibitor. Recent data suggest that L. mexicana ICP plays an important role in host-parasite interactions. We have now solved the structure of ICP from L. mexicanaby NMR and shown that it adopts a type of immunoglobulin-like fold not previously reported in lower eukaryotes or bacteria. The structure places three loops containing highly conserved residues at one end of the molecule, one loop being highly mobile. Interaction studies with CPs confirm the importance of these loops for the interaction between ICP and CPs and suggest the mechanism of inhibition. Structure-guided mutagenesis of ICP has revealed that residues in the mobile loop are critical for CP inhibition. Data-driven docking models support the importance of the loops in the ICP-CP interaction. This study provides structural evidence for the convergent evolution from an immunoglobulin fold of CP inhibitors with a cystatin-like mechanism.
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes. They play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites and inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Homology modeling of the mature Leishmania mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8 suggested that it differs significantly from bovine cathepsin B and thus could be a good drug target. High throughput screening of a compound library against this enzyme and bovine cathepsin B in a counter assay identified four novel inhibitors, containing the warhead-types semicarbazone, thiosemicarbazone and triazine nitrile, that can be used as leads for antiparasite drug design. Covalent docking experiments confirmed the SARs of these lead compounds in an effort to understand the structural elements required for specific inhibition of CPB2.8. This study has provided starting points for the design of selective and highly potent inhibitors of L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB that may also have useful efficacy against other important cysteine proteases.
Hemoglobin digestion is an essential process for blood-feeding parasites. Using chemical tools, we deconvoluted the intracellular hemoglobinolytic cascade in the tick Ixodes ricinus, a vector of Lyme disease and tick-borne encephalitis. In tick gut tissue, a network of peptidases was demonstrated through imaging with specific activity-based probes and activity profiling with peptidic substrates/inhibitors. This peptidase network is induced upon blood feeding and degrades hemoglobin at acidic pH. Selective inhibitors were applied to dissect the roles of the individual peptidases and determine the peptidase-specific cleavage map of the hemoglobin molecule. The degradation pathway is initiated by endopeptidases of aspartic and cysteine class (cathepsin D supported by cathepsin L and legumain) and continued by cysteine amino- and carboxy-dipeptidases (cathepsins C and B). The identified enzymes are potential targets to developing novel anti-tick vaccines.
Metacaspases (MCAs) are caspase family cysteine peptidases that have been implicated in cell death processes in plants, fungi and protozoa. MCAs have also been suggested to be involved in cell cycle control, differentiation and clearance of aggregates; they are virulence factors. Dissecting the function of MCAs has been complicated by the presence in many organisms of multiple MCA genes or limitations on genetic manipulation. We describe here the creation of a MCA gene-deletion mutant (Δmca) in the protozoan parasite Leishmania mexicana, which has allowed us to dissect the role of the parasite's single MCA gene in cell growth and cell death. Δmca parasites are viable as promastigotes, and differentiate normally to the amastigote form both in in vitro macrophages infection and in mice. Δmca promastigotes respond to cell death inducers such as the drug miltefosine and H2O2 similarly to wild-type (WT) promastigotes, suggesting that MCAs do not have a caspase-like role in execution of L. mexicana cell death. Δmca amastigotes replicated significantly faster than WT amastigotes in macrophages and in mice, but not as axenic culture in vitro. We propose that the Leishmania MCA acts as a negative regulator of amastigote proliferation, thereby acting to balance cell growth and cell death.
metacaspase; caspase; cysteine peptidase; programmed cell death
Visceral leishmaniasis caused by members of the Leishmania donovani complex is often fatal in the absence of treatment. Research has been hampered by the lack of good laboratory models and tools for genetic manipulation. In this study, we have characterised a L. infantum line (JPCM5) that was isolated from a naturally infected dog and then cloned. We found that JPCM5 has attributes that make it an excellent laboratory model; different stages of the parasite life cycle can be studied in vitro, it is accessible to genetic manipulation and it has retained its virulence. Furthermore, the L. infantum JPCM5 genome has now been fully sequenced.
We have further focused our studies on LiCPA, the L. infantum homologue to L. mexicana cysteine peptidase CPA. LiCPA was found to share a high percentage of amino acid identity with CPA proteins of other Leishmania species. Two independent LiCPA-deficient promastigote clones (ΔLicpa) were generated and their phenotype characterised. In contrast to L. mexicana CPA-deficient mutants, both clones of ΔLicpa were found to have significantly reduced virulence in vitro and in vivo. Re-expression of just one LiCPA allele (giving ΔLicpa::CPA) was sufficient to complement the reduced infectivity of both ΔLicpa mutants for human macrophages, which confirms the importance of LiCPA for L. infantum virulence. In contrast, in vivo experiments did not show any virulence recovery of the re-expressor clone ΔLicpaC1::CPA compared with the CPA-deficient mutant ΔLicpaC1.
The data suggest that CPA is not essential for replication of L. infantum promastigotes, but is important for the host-parasite interaction. Further studies will be necessary to elucidate the precise roles that LiCPA plays and why the re-expression of LiCPA in the ΔLicpa mutants complemented the gene deletion phenotype only in in vitro and not in in vivo infection of hamsters.
The cell surface of the human parasite Leishmania
mexicana is coated with glycosylphosphatidylinositol
(GPI)-anchored macromolecules and free GPI glycolipids. We have
investigated the intracellular trafficking of green fluorescent
protein- and hemagglutinin-tagged forms of
dolichol-phosphate-mannose synthase (DPMS), a key enzyme in GPI
biosynthesis in L. mexicana promastigotes. These
functionally active chimeras are found in the same subcompartment of
the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) as endogenous DPMS but are degraded as
logarithmically growing promastigotes reach stationary phase,
coincident with the down-regulation of endogenous DPMS activity and GPI
biosynthesis in these cells. We provide evidence that these chimeras
are constitutively transported to and degraded in a novel
multivesicular tubule (MVT) lysosome. This organelle is a terminal
lysosome, which is labeled with the endocytic marker FM 4-64, contains
lysosomal cysteine and serine proteases and is disrupted by
lysomorphotropic agents. Electron microscopy and subcellular
fractionation studies suggest that the DPMS chimeras are transported
from the ER to the lumen of the MVT via the Golgi apparatus and a
population of 200-nm multivesicular bodies. In contrast, soluble ER
proteins are not detectably transported to the MVT lysosome in either
log or stationary phase promastigotes. Finally, the increased
degradation of the DPMS chimeras in stationary phase promastigotes
coincides with an increase in the lytic capacity of the MVT lysosome
and changes in the morphology of this organelle. We conclude that
lysosomal degradation of DPMS may be important in regulating the
cellular levels of this enzyme and the stage-dependent biosynthesis of
the major surface glycolipids of these parasites.
ICP is a chagasin-family natural tight binding inhibitor of Clan CA, family C1 cysteine peptidases (CPs). We investigated the role of ICP in Trypanosoma brucei by generating bloodstream form ICP-deficient mutants (Δicp). A threefold increase in CP activity was detected in lysates of Δicp, which was restored to the levels in wild type parasites by re-expression of the gene in the null mutant. Δicp displayed slower growth in culture and increased resistance to a trypanocidal synthetic CP inhibitor. More efficient exchange of the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) to procyclin during differentiation from bloodstream to procyclic form was observed in Δicp, a phenotype that was reversed in the presence of synthetic CP inhibitors. Furthermore, we showed that degradation of anti-VSG IgG is abolished when parasites are pretreated with synthetic CP inhibitors, and that parasites lacking ICP degrade IgG more efficiently than wild type. In addition, Δicp reached higher parasitemia than wild type parasites in infected mice, suggesting that ICP modulates parasite infectivity. Taken together, these data suggest that CPs of T. brucei bloodstream form play a role in surface coat exchange during differentiation, in the degradation of internalized IgG and in parasite infectivity, and that their function is regulated by ICP.
Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease transmitted to human and other mammalian hosts by sand fly bite. Here we show that immunization with Leishmania mexicana promastigote secretory gel (PSG) or a chemically defined synthetic glycovaccine containing the glycans found in L. mexicana PSG can both provide significant protection against challenge by the bite of infected sand flies. Only the glycan from L. mexicana was protective, those found in other species did not protect against L. mexicana infection. Further, neither PSG nor the glycovaccine protected against artificial needle challenge, which is traditionally used in antileishmanial vaccine development. Conversely, an antigen preparation that was effective against needle challenge offered no protection against sand fly bite. These findings provide a new target for Leishmania vaccine development and demonstrate the critical role of the vector in the evaluation of candidate vaccines for leishmaniasis and other vector-borne diseases.
leishmaniasis; vaccine; sand fly; promastigote secretory gel
Leishmania mexicana mutants deficient in the multicopy CPB gene array have reduced virulence, demonstrated by poor lesion growth in BALB/c mice and induction of a protective Th1 response. Reinsertion of the amastigote-specific CPB2.8 or metacyclic stage-specific CPB2 gene into a CPB-deficient mutant L. mexicana failed to restore either a Th2 response or sustained virulence. However, reexpression of multiple CPB genes from a cosmid significantly restored virulence. This was characterized by increased lesion and parasite growth and the acquisition of a Th2 response, as determined by measuring interleukin-4 production and immunoglobulin G1 (IgG1) and IgE levels. These studies confirm that L. mexicana cysteine proteases are important virulence factors and provide an explanation for the presence in L. mexicana of a multicopy tandem array of CPB genes.
Leishmania mexicana is a protozoan parasite that causes a disease in humans with frequent relapses after treatment. It is also highly resistant to the currently available drugs. For this reason, there is an urgent need for more effective antileishmanial drugs. Hydroxyurea, an anticancer drug, is toxic to replicating eukaryotic cells and has been proven to be effective in arresting the Leishmania major cell cycle. In this study, hydroxyurea was tested in an in vitro model of intracellular Leishmania infection in macrophages. The parasite density in infected macrophages was measured by microscopy after incubation for various times and treatment with hydroxyurea at different concentrations. Viable parasites that could be transformed into promastigotes by shifting the temperature to 26°C were counted every other day after the replacement of hydroxyurea with fresh medium. Meglumine antimoniate, the standard drug treatment for Leishmania mexicana, was used as a reference drug under the same experimental conditions. Hydroxyurea completely eliminated Leishmania parasites when it was used at a dosage of 10 or 100 μg/ml. Differences in the length of treatment needed to achieve elimination were as follows: the 10-μg/ml doses required 9 days, while 3 days was sufficient when 100 μg/ml was used. Hydroxyurea had a 50% effective dose of 0.015 μg/ml in vitro, which was observed on day 6 after exposure. Hydroxyurea is highly effective in killing intracellular amastigotes in vitro.
Secreted and surface-exposed antigens of intracellular pathogens are thought to provide target structures for detection by the host immune system. The major secreted product of intracellular Leishmania mexicana amastigotes, a proteophosphoglycan (aPPG), is known to contribute to the establishment of the parasitophorous vacuole and is able to activate complement. aPPG belongs to a novel class of serine- and threonine-rich Leishmania proteins that are extensively modified by phosphodiester-linked phosphooligosaccharides and terminal mannooligosaccharides. Here we show that mice chronically infected with L. mexicana generally do not produce antibodies or Th cells specific for aPPG. Similarly, antibody titers are very low in mice vaccinated with aPPG, and specific CD4+ T cells are undetectable. Comparative analyses of other Leishmania glycoconjugates indicate that L. mexicana-specific carbohydrate structures are poorly immunogenic in mice and that the proteophosphoglycan aPPG behaved immunologically like a carbohydrate. The latter observation is explained by the lack of induction of aPPG-specific CD4+ T cells. In contrast, recombinant aPPG peptides stimulate CD4+ T-cell responses and high titers of specific antibodies are found in the sera of mice vaccinated with these peptides. Native aPPG is highly resistant to proteinases and apparently cannot be degraded by macrophages. It is concluded that conventional CD4+ T cells against the polypeptide backbone of aPPG are not induced because the molecule resists antigen processing due to its extensive and complex carbohydrate modification. The complex glycan chains of aPPG, which exhibit important biological functions for the parasite, may therefore also have evolved to evade detection by the immune system of the host organism.
Our increased understanding of host pathogen interactions shows that pathogens could capitalize on host cell pathways to favor entry and disease establishment. One such pathway used by Leishmania mexicana to enter into neutrophils and macrophages is the PI3Kγ signaling pathway. We recently showed that the use of the PI3Kγ inhibitor AS-605240 for the treatment of experimental L. mexicana infection in mice resulted in significantly lower parasite burdens and lesion sizes than WT untreated mice. Further, AS-605240 was found to be as effective as Sodium Stibogluconate, the drug of choice for treatment of L. mexicana infection, in reducing parasite burdens in mice. Here, we provide potential mechanisms of PI3Kγ blockade in promoting resistance to L. mexicana infection in mice. As a proof of principle, we propose that targeting host cell signaling pathways used in the establishment of infection could be a possible therapeutic option in the management of obligate intracellular pathogens.
Leishmania; AS-605240; PI3Kγ; cell migration; macrophages; neutrophils; phagocytosis
Attempts to crystallize a complex of papain (C. papaya) with a cysteine protease inhibitor from the parasitic pathogen T. brucei failed. However, over an extended period the mixture produced an ordered crystal of the protease carrying two peptide fragments in the active site. These correspond to dipeptides and tripeptides that are assigned as fragments of the inhibitor, which has presumably suffered proteolytic cleavage.
Attempts to cocrystallize the cysteine protease papain derived from the latex of Carica papaya with an inhibitor of cysteine proteases (ICP) from Trypanosoma brucei were unsuccessful. However, crystals of papain that diffracted to higher resolution, 1.5 Å, than other crystals of this archetypal cysteine protease were obtained, so the analysis was continued. Surprisingly, the substrate-binding cleft was occupied by two short peptide fragments which have been assigned as remnants of ICP. Comparisons reveal that these peptides bind in the active site in a manner similar to that of the human cysteine protease inhibitor stefin B when it is complexed to papain. The assignment of the fragment sequences is consistent with the specificity of the protease.
papain; cysteine protease; inhibitors; Trypanosoma brucei
Leishmania parasites have been reported to interfere and even subvert their host immune responses to enhance their chances of survival and proliferation. Experimental Leishmania infection in mice has been widely used in the identification of specific parasite virulence factors involved in the interaction with the host immune system. Cysteine-proteinase B (CPB) is an important virulence factor in parasites from the Leishmania (Leishmania) mexicana complex: it inhibits lymphocytes Th1 and/or promotes Th2 responses either through proteolytic activity or through epitopes derived from its COOH-terminal extension. In the present study we analyzed the effects of Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis CPB COOH-terminal extension-derived peptides on cell cultures from murine strains with distinct levels of susceptibility to infection: BALB/c, highly susceptible, and CBA, mildly resistant.
Predicted epitopes, obtained by in silico mapping, displayed the ability to induce cell proliferation and expression of cytokines related to Th1 and Th2 responses. Furthermore, we applied in silico simulations to investigate how the MHC/epitopes interactions could be related to the immunomodulatory effects on cytokines, finding evidence that specific interaction patterns can be related to in vitro activities.
Based on our results, we consider that some peptides from the CPB COOH-terminal extension may influence host immune responses in the murine infection, thus helping Leishmania survival.
In the search for new antiparasitic natural compounds from the medicinal plants from Cameroon, the new 22-hydroxyclerosterol, established as such on the basis of detailed chemical and spectroscopic analysis, was isolated from the hexane extract of the stem bark of Allexis cauliflora together with the known clerosterol. 22-Hydroxyclerosterol inhibited the growth of Trypanosoma brucei brucei cells with an ED50 value of 1.56 μM. The compound was also established as an uncompetitive inhibitor of the glycolytic enzyme PGI of T. brucei (Ki’= 3 ± 1 μM), an uncompetitive inhibitor of mammalian rabbit muscles’ enzyme PyK (Ki’= 26 ± 3 μM) and a mixed inhibitor of PyK of Leishmania mexicana (Ki’= 65 ± 10 μM; Ki= 24 ± 5 μM).
Clerosterol; Enzyme inhibitor; Trypanocide; Trypanosoma brucei; Stigmastane sterols; Cytotoxicity; NMR; Structure elucidation; Natural products
Cysteine peptidases have been implicated in the development and pathogenesis of Eimeria. We have identified a single-copy cathepsin B-like cysteine peptidase gene in the genome database of Eimeria tenella (EtCatB). Molecular modeling of the predicted protein suggested that it differs significantly from host enzymes and could be a good drug target. EtCatB was expressed and secreted as a soluble, active, glycosylated mature enzyme from Pichia pastoris. Biochemical characterization of the recombinant enzyme confirmed that it is cathepsin B-like. Screening of a focused library against the enzyme identified three inhibitors (a nitrile, a thiosemicarbazone, and an oxazolone) that can be used as leads for novel drug discovery against Eimeria. The oxazolone scaffold is a novel cysteine peptidase inhibitor; it may thus find widespread use.
Leishmania species are the causative agents of the leishmaniases, a spectrum of neglected tropical diseases. Amastigote stage parasites exist within macrophages and scavenge host factors for survival, for example, Leishmania species utilise host sphingolipid for synthesis of complex sphingolipid. In this study L. mexicana endocytosis was shown to be significantly upregulated in amastigotes, indicating that sphingolipid scavenging may be enhanced. However, inhibition of host sphingolipid biosynthesis had no significant effect on amastigote proliferation within a macrophage cell line. In addition, infection itself did not directly influence host biosynthesis. Notably, in contrast to L. major, L. mexicana amastigotes are indicated to possess a complete biosynthetic pathway suggesting that scavenged sphingolipids may be nonessential for proliferation. This suggested that Old and New World species differ in their interactions with the macrophage host. This will need to be considered when targeting the Leishmania sphingolipid biosynthetic pathway with novel therapeutics.
Protozoan parasites of genus Leishmania are the causative agents of leishmaniasis. These digenetic microorganisms undergo a marked environmental temperature shift (TS) during transmission from the sandfly vector (ambient temperature, 25–26°C) to the mammalian host (37°C). We have observed that this TS induces a rapid and dramatic increase in protein release from Leishmania mexicana (cutaneous leishmaniasis) within 4 h. Proteomic identification of the TS-induced secreted proteins revealed 72 proteins, the majority of which lack a signal peptide and are thus thought to be secreted via nonconventional mechanisms. Interestingly, this protein release is accompanied by alterations in parasite morphology including an augmentation in the budding of exovesicles from its surface. Here we show that the exoproteome of L. mexicana upon TS induces cleavage and activation of the host protein tyrosine phosphatases, specifically SHP-1 and PTP1-B, in a murine bone-marrow-derived macrophage cell line. Furthermore, translocation of prominent inflammatory transcription factors, namely NF-κB and AP-1 is altered. The exoproteome also caused inhibition of nitric oxide production, a crucial leishmanicidal function of the macrophage. Overall, our results provide strong evidence that within early moments of interaction with the mammalian host, L. mexicana rapidly releases proteins and exovesicles that modulate signalling and function of the macrophage. These modulations can result in attenuation of the inflammatory response and deactivation of the macrophage aiding the parasite in the establishment of infection.
Arginase (ARG), the enzyme that catalyzes the conversion of arginine to ornithine and urea, is the first and committed step in polyamine biosynthesis in Leishmania. The creation of a conditionally lethal Δarg null mutant in Leishmania mexicana has established that ARG is an essential enzyme for the promastigote form of the parasite and that the enzyme provides an important defense mechanism for parasite survival in the eukaryotic host. Furthermore, human ARGI (HsARGI) has also been implicated as a key factor in parasite proliferation. Thus, inhibitors of ARG offer a rational paradigm for drug design. To initiate a search for inhibitors of the L. mexicana ARG (LmARG), recombinant LmARG and HsARGI enzymes were purified from Escherichia coli. Both LmARG and HsARGI were specific for L-arginine and exhibited no activity with either D-arginine or agmatine as possible substrates. LmARG exhibited a Km of 25 ± 4 mM for L-arginine, a pH optimum ~9.0, and was dependent upon the presence of a divalent cation, preferentially manganese. A Km of 13.5 ± 2 mM for L-arginine was calculated for the HsARGI. A collection of 37 compounds was evaluated against both enzymes. Twelve of these compounds were identified as being either strong inhibitors of both LmARG and HsARGI or differential inhibitors between the two enzymes. Of the 12 compounds, six were selected for further analysis and the type and extent of inhibition determined.
Leishmania; Arginase; Polyamines; Inhibitors; Amino acids
Leishmania braziliensis (isolate 2903) was naturally resistant to ketoconazole or the bis-triazole D0870, inhibitors of sterol C-14 demethylase, which produced only moderate effects on the proliferation of promastigotes at 10 microM. In contrast, Leishmania mexicana (isolate NR) was extremely susceptible to the azoles, as complete growth arrest and cell lysis were induced by incubation of the parasites with 0.05 microM concentrations of the drugs for 72 h. The opposite response was observed with terbinafine, an inhibitor of squalene epoxidase: L. braziliensis 2903 was three times more susceptible to the drug than L. mexicana NR (MICs of 5 and 15 microM, respectively). However, when the L. braziliensis stock was grown in the presence of 1 microM terbinafine, which by itself produced only marginal (< 10%) effects on growth, it became highly susceptible to the azoles, with an MIC of 0.03 microM. Analysis of cellular free sterols by high-resolution capillary gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry showed that 14-methyl sterols can support normal growth of L. braziliensis 2903 but not of L. mexicana NR. On the other hand, the higher susceptibility of the L. braziliensis isolate to terbinafine was correlated with a massive accumulation of squalene in the presence of the allylamine while no significant effects on L. mexicana sterol composition were observed at drug concentrations up to 1 microM. Thus, the > 300-fold increase in the susceptibility of L. braziliensis promastigotes to azoles in the presence of terbinafine was attributed to the combined effect of squalene and the methylated sterol precursors on the physical properties of the cell's membranes, leading to the loss of cell viability. Combination therapy with azoles and terbinafine in the treatment of human L. braziliensis infections deserves further study.
Several pathogenic fungi and protozoa are known to have sterols distinct from those of their mammalian hosts. Of particular interest as targets for drug development are the biosyntheses of the sterols of important parasites such as the kinetoplastid flagellates and the AIDS-associated opportunistic protist Pneumocystis carinii. These pathogens synthesize sterols with an alkyl group at C-24, and some have a double bond at C-22 of the side chain. Humans and other mammalian hosts are incapable of C-24 alkylation and C-22 desaturation. In the present study, three steroidal compounds with side chains substituted by phosphonyl-linked groups were synthesized and tested for their effects on Leishmania donovani and L. mexicana mexicana culture growth. The compounds inhibited organism proliferation at concentrations in micrograms per milliliter. The most potent inhibitors of this group of compounds were characterized by two ethyl groups at the phosphate function. Leishmania organisms treated with 17-[2-(diethylphosphonato) ethylidienyl]3-methoxy-19-norpregna-1,3,5-triene exhibited reduced growth after transfer into inhibitor-free medium. Because there are currently no axenic methods available for the continuous subcultivation of P. carinii, the effects of these drugs on this organism were evaluated by two alternative screening methods. The same two diethyl phosphonosteroid compounds that inhibited Leishmania proliferation were also the most active against P. carinii as determined by the potent effect they had on reducing cellular ATP content. Cystic as well as trophic forms responded to the drug treatments, as evaluated by a dual fluorescent staining live-dead assay. Other modifications of steroidal phosphonates may lead to the development of related drugs with increased activity and specificity for the pathogens.
The first crystal structure of Leishmania mexicana pyruvate kinase (LmPYK) obtained at a neutral pH. LmPYK was co-crystallized with the small molecule 1,3,6,8-pyrenetetrasulfonic acid, which provides a helpful intermolecular bridge between macromolecules.
The inclusion of novel small molecules in crystallization experiments has provided very encouraging results and this method is now emerging as a promising alternative strategy for crystallizing ‘problematic’ biological macromolecules. These small molecules have the ability to promote lattice formation through stabilizing intermolecular interactions in protein crystals. Here, the use of 1,3,6,8-pyrenetetrasulfonic acid (PTS), which provides a helpful intermolecular bridge between Leishmania mexicana PYK (LmPYK) macromolecules in the crystal, is reported, resulting in the rapid formation of a more stable crystal lattice at neutral pH and greatly improved X-ray diffraction results. The refined structure of the LmPYK–PTS complex revealed the negatively charged PTS molecule to be stacked between positively charged (surface-exposed) arginine side chains from neighbouring LmPYK molecules in the crystal lattice.
pyruvate kinase; Leishmania mexicana; 1,3,6,8-pyrenetetrasulfonic acid
The bifunctional trypanothione synthetase-amidase catalyzes biosynthesis and hydrolysis of the glutathione-spermidine adduct trypanothione, the principal intracellular thiol-redox metabolite in parasitic trypanosomatids. These parasites are unique with regard to their reliance on trypanothione to determine intracellular thiol-redox balance in defense against oxidative and chemical stress and to regulate polyamine levels. Enzymes involved in trypanothione biosynthesis provide essential biological activities, and those absent from humans or for which orthologues are sufficiently distinct are attractive targets to underpin anti-parasitic drug discovery. The structure of Leishmania major trypanothione synthetase-amidase, determined in three crystal forms, reveals two catalytic domains. The N-terminal domain, a cysteine, histidine-dependent amidohydrolase/peptidase amidase, is a papain-like cysteine protease, and the C-terminal synthetase domain displays an ATP-grasp family fold common to C:N ligases. Modeling of substrates into each active site provides insight into the specificity and reactivity of this unusual enzyme, which is able to catalyze four reactions. The domain orientation is distinct from that observed in a related bacterial glutathionylspermidine synthetase. In trypanothione synthetase-amidase, the interactions formed by the C terminus, binding in and restricting access to the amidase active site, suggest that the balance of ligation and hydrolytic activity is directly influenced by the alignment of the domains with respect to each other and implicate conformational changes with amidase activity. The potential inhibitory role of the C terminus provides a mechanism to control relative levels of the critical metabolites, trypanothione, glutathionylspermidine, and spermidine in Leishmania.