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1.  Trichomonas Transmembrane Cyclases Result from Massive Gene Duplication and Concomitant Development of Pseudogenes 
Trichomonas vaginalis has an unusually large genome (∼160 Mb) encoding ∼60,000 proteins. With the goal of beginning to understand why some Trichomonas genes are present in so many copies, we characterized here a family of ∼123 Trichomonas genes that encode transmembrane adenylyl cyclases (TMACs).
Methodology/Principal Findings
The large family of TMACs genes is the result of recent duplications of a small set of ancestral genes that appear to be unique to trichomonads. Duplicated TMAC genes are not closely associated with repetitive elements, and duplications of flanking sequences are rare. However, there is evidence for TMAC gene replacements by homologous recombination. A high percentage of TMAC genes (∼46%) are pseudogenes, as they contain stop codons and/or frame shifts, or the genes are truncated. Numerous stop codons present in the genome project G3 strain are not present in orthologous genes of two other Trichomonas strains (S1 and B7RC2). Each TMAC is composed of a series of N-terminal transmembrane helices and a single C-terminal cyclase domain that has adenylyl cyclase activity. Multiple TMAC genes are transcribed by Trichomonas cloned by limiting dilution.
We conclude that one reason for the unusually large genome of Trichomonas is the presence of unstable families of genes such as those encoding TMACs that are undergoing massive gene duplication and concomitant development of pseudogenes.
Author Summary
Trichomonas vaginalis is the only medically important protist (single-cell eukaryote) that is sexually transmitted. The ∼160-Mb Trichomonas genome contains more predicted protein-encoding genes (∼60,000) than the human genome. To begin to understand why there are so many copies of some genes, we chose here to study a large family of genes encoding unique transmembrane cyclases. Our most important results include the following. More than 100 transmembrane cyclase genes do not result from chromosomal duplications, because for the most part only the coding regions of the genes, rather than flanking sequences, are duplicated. Almost half of the transmembrane cyclase genes are pseudogenes, and these pseudogenes are polymorphic among laboratory strains of Trichomonas. Messenger RNAs for numerous transmembrane cyclases are expressed simultaneously, and representative cyclase domains have adenylyl cyclase activity. In summary, the large family of Trichomonas genes encoding transmembrane adenylyl cyclases results from massive gene duplication and concomitant development of pseudogenes.
PMCID: PMC2914791  PMID: 20689771
2.  A Machine Learning Approach To Identify Hydrogenosomal Proteins in Trichomonas vaginalis 
Eukaryotic Cell  2012;11(2):217-228.
The protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis is the causative agent of trichomoniasis, the most widespread nonviral sexually transmitted disease in humans. It possesses hydrogenosomes—anaerobic mitochondria that generate H2, CO2, and acetate from pyruvate while converting ADP to ATP via substrate-level phosphorylation. T. vaginalis hydrogenosomes lack a genome and translation machinery; hence, they import all their proteins from the cytosol. To date, however, only 30 imported proteins have been shown to localize to the organelle. A total of 226 nuclear-encoded proteins inferred from the genome sequence harbor a characteristic short N-terminal presequence, reminiscent of mitochondrial targeting peptides, which is thought to mediate hydrogenosomal targeting. Recent studies suggest, however, that the presequences might be less important than previously thought. We sought to identify new hydrogenosomal proteins within the 59,672 annotated open reading frames (ORFs) of T. vaginalis, independent of the N-terminal targeting signal, using a machine learning approach. Our training set included 57 gene and protein features determined for all 30 known hydrogenosomal proteins and 576 nonhydrogenosomal proteins. Several classifiers were trained on this set to yield an import score for all proteins encoded by T. vaginalis ORFs, predicting the likelihood of hydrogenosomal localization. The machine learning results were tested through immunofluorescence assay and immunodetection in isolated cell fractions of 14 protein predictions using hemagglutinin constructs expressed under the homologous SCSα promoter in transiently transformed T. vaginalis cells. Localization of 6 of the 10 top predicted hydrogenosome-localized proteins was confirmed, and two of these were found to lack an obvious N-terminal targeting signal.
PMCID: PMC3272890  PMID: 22140228
3.  The Core Components of Organelle Biogenesis and Membrane Transport in the Hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(9):e24428.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a parasitic protist of the Excavata group. It contains an anaerobic form of mitochondria called hydrogenosomes, which produce hydrogen and ATP; the majority of mitochondrial pathways and the organellar genome were lost during the mitochondrion-to-hydrogenosome transition. Consequently, all hydrogenosomal proteins are encoded in the nucleus and imported into the organelles. However, little is known about the membrane machineries required for biogenesis of the organelle and metabolite exchange. Using a combination of mass spectrometry, immunofluorescence microscopy, in vitro import assays and reverse genetics, we characterized the membrane proteins of the hydrogenosome. We identified components of the outer membrane (TOM) and inner membrane (TIM) protein translocases include multiple paralogs of the core Tom40-type porins and Tim17/22/23 channel proteins, respectively, and uniquely modified small Tim chaperones. The inner membrane proteins TvTim17/22/23-1 and Pam18 were shown to possess conserved information for targeting to mitochondrial inner membranes, but too divergent in sequence to support the growth of yeast strains lacking Tim17, Tim22, Tim23 or Pam18. Full complementation was seen only when the J-domain of hydrogenosomal Pam18 was fused with N-terminal region and transmembrane segment of the yeast homolog. Candidates for metabolite exchange across the outer membrane were identified including multiple isoforms of the β-barrel proteins, Hmp35 and Hmp36; inner membrane MCF-type metabolite carriers were limited to five homologs of the ATP/ADP carrier, Hmp31. Lastly, hydrogenosomes possess a pathway for the assembly of C-tail-anchored proteins into their outer membrane with several new tail-anchored proteins being identified. These results show that hydrogenosomes and mitochondria share common core membrane components required for protein import and metabolite exchange; however, they also reveal remarkable differences that reflect the functional adaptation of hydrogenosomes to anaerobic conditions and the peculiar evolutionary history of the Excavata group.
PMCID: PMC3174187  PMID: 21935410
4.  Transcriptomic Identification of Iron-Regulated and Iron-Independent Gene Copies within the Heavily Duplicated Trichomonas vaginalis Genome 
Genome Biology and Evolution  2012;4(10):1017-1029.
Gene duplication is an important evolutionary mechanism and no eukaryote has more duplicated gene families than the parasitic protist Trichomonas vaginalis. Iron is an essential nutrient for Trichomonas and plays a pivotal role in the establishment of infection, proliferation, and virulence. To gain insight into the role of iron in T. vaginalis gene expression and genome evolution, we screened iron-regulated genes using an oligonucleotide microarray for T. vaginalis and by comparative EST (expressed sequence tag) sequencing of cDNA libraries derived from trichomonads cultivated under iron-rich (+Fe) and iron-restricted (−Fe) conditions. Among 19,000 ESTs from both libraries, we identified 336 iron-regulated genes, of which 165 were upregulated under +Fe conditions and 171 under −Fe conditions. The microarray analysis revealed that 195 of 4,950 unique genes were differentially expressed. Of these, 117 genes were upregulated under +Fe conditions and 78 were upregulated under −Fe conditions. The results of both methods were congruent concerning the regulatory trends and the representation of gene categories. Under +Fe conditions, the expression of proteins involved in carbohydrate metabolism, particularly in the energy metabolism of hydrogenosomes, and in methionine catabolism was increased. The iron–sulfur cluster assembly machinery and certain cysteine proteases are of particular importance among the proteins upregulated under −Fe conditions. A unique feature of the T. vaginalis genome is the retention during evolution of multiple paralogous copies for a majority of all genes. Although the origins and reasons for this gene expansion remain unclear, the retention of multiple gene copies could provide an opportunity to evolve differential expression during growth in variable environmental conditions. For genes whose expression was affected by iron, we found that iron influenced the expression of only some of the paralogous copies, whereas the expression of the other paralogs was iron independent. This finding indicates a very stringent regulation of the differentially expressed paralogous genes in response to changes in the availability of exogenous nutrients and provides insight into the evolutionary rationale underlying massive paralog retention in the Trichomonas genome.
PMCID: PMC3490414  PMID: 22975721
gene duplication; iron; microarrays; EST analysis
5.  The Tc1/mariner transposable element family shapes genetic variation and gene expression in the protist Trichomonas vaginalis 
Mobile DNA  2014;5:12.
Trichomonas vaginalis is the most prevalent non-viral sexually transmitted parasite. Although the protist is presumed to reproduce asexually, 60% of its haploid genome contains transposable elements (TEs), known contributors to genome variability. The availability of a draft genome sequence and our collection of >200 global isolates of T. vaginalis facilitate the study and analysis of TE population dynamics and their contribution to genomic variability in this protist.
We present here a pilot study of a subset of class II Tc1/mariner TEs that belong to the T. vaginalis Tvmar1 family. We report the genetic structure of 19 Tvmar1 loci, their ability to encode a full-length transposase protein, and their insertion frequencies in 94 global isolates from seven regions of the world. While most of the Tvmar1 elements studied exhibited low insertion frequencies, two of the 19 loci (locus 1 and locus 9) show high insertion frequencies of 1.00 and 0.96, respectively. The genetic structuring of the global populations identified by principal component analysis (PCA) of the Tvmar1 loci is in general agreement with published data based on genotyping, showing that Tvmar1 polymorphisms are a robust indicator of T. vaginalis genetic history. Analysis of expression of 22 genes flanking 13 Tvmar1 loci indicated significantly altered expression of six of the genes next to five Tvmar1 insertions, suggesting that the insertions have functional implications for T. vaginalis gene expression.
Our study is the first in T. vaginalis to describe Tvmar1 population dynamics and its contribution to genetic variability of the parasite. We show that a majority of our studied Tvmar1 insertion loci exist at very low frequencies in the global population, and insertions are variable between geographical isolates. In addition, we observe that low frequency insertion is related to reduced or abolished expression of flanking genes. While low insertion frequencies might be expected, we identified two Tvmar1 insertion loci that are fixed across global populations. This observation indicates that Tvmar1 insertion may have differing impacts and fitness costs in the host genome and may play varying roles in the adaptive evolution of T. vaginalis.
PMCID: PMC4021607  PMID: 24834134
DNA transposable element; Mariner transposase; Trichomonas vaginalis; Population genetics; Gene expression
6.  The parasite Trichomonas vaginalis expresses thousands of pseudogenes and long non-coding RNAs independently from functional neighbouring genes 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):906.
The human pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis is a parabasalian flagellate that is estimated to infect 3% of the world’s population annually. With a 160 megabase genome and up to 60,000 genes residing in six chromosomes, the parasite has the largest genome among sequenced protists. Although it is thought that the genome size and unusual large coding capacity is owed to genome duplication events, the exact reason and its consequences are less well studied.
Among transcriptome data we found thousands of instances, in which reads mapped onto genomic loci not annotated as genes, some reaching up to several kilobases in length. At first sight these appear to represent long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs), however, about half of these lncRNAs have significant sequence similarities to genomic loci annotated as protein-coding genes. This provides evidence for the transcription of hundreds of pseudogenes in the parasite. Conventional lncRNAs and pseudogenes are expressed in Trichomonas through their own transcription start sites and independently from flanking genes in Trichomonas. Expression of several representative lncRNAs was verified through reverse-transcriptase PCR in different T. vaginalis strains and case studies exclude the use of alternative start codons or stop codon suppression for the genes analysed.
Our results demonstrate that T. vaginalis expresses thousands of intergenic loci, including numerous transcribed pseudogenes. In contrast to yeast these are expressed independently from neighbouring genes. Our results furthermore illustrate the effect genome duplication events can have on the transcriptome of a protist. The parasite’s genome is in a steady state of changing and we hypothesize that the numerous lncRNAs could offer a large pool for potential innovation from which novel proteins or regulatory RNA units could evolve.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-906) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4223856  PMID: 25326207
Trichomonas; Non-coding RNA; Pseudogenes; Gene families; Genome Duplication; Stop codon suppression
7.  Reductive Evolution of the Mitochondrial Processing Peptidases of the Unicellular Parasites Trichomonas vaginalis and Giardia intestinalis 
PLoS Pathogens  2008;4(12):e1000243.
Mitochondrial processing peptidases are heterodimeric enzymes (α/βMPP) that play an essential role in mitochondrial biogenesis by recognizing and cleaving the targeting presequences of nuclear-encoded mitochondrial proteins. The two subunits are paralogues that probably evolved by duplication of a gene for a monomeric metallopeptidase from the endosymbiotic ancestor of mitochondria. Here, we characterize the MPP-like proteins from two important human parasites that contain highly reduced versions of mitochondria, the mitosomes of Giardia intestinalis and the hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis. Our biochemical characterization of recombinant proteins showed that, contrary to a recent report, the Trichomonas processing peptidase functions efficiently as an α/β heterodimer. By contrast, and so far uniquely among eukaryotes, the Giardia processing peptidase functions as a monomer comprising a single βMPP-like catalytic subunit. The structure and surface charge distribution of the Giardia processing peptidase predicted from a 3-D protein model appear to have co-evolved with the properties of Giardia mitosomal targeting sequences, which, unlike classic mitochondrial targeting signals, are typically short and impoverished in positively charged residues. The majority of hydrogenosomal presequences resemble those of mitosomes, but longer, positively charged mitochondrial-type presequences were also identified, consistent with the retention of the Trichomonas αMPP-like subunit. Our computational and experimental/functional analyses reveal that the divergent processing peptidases of Giardia mitosomes and Trichomonas hydrogenosomes evolved from the same ancestral heterodimeric α/βMPP metallopeptidase as did the classic mitochondrial enzyme. The unique monomeric structure of the Giardia enzyme, and the co-evolving properties of the Giardia enzyme and substrate, provide a compelling example of the power of reductive evolution to shape parasite biology.
Author Summary
In classic model organisms, cleavage of signals that are required to deliver nuclear-encoded proteins to mitochondria is mediated by an enzyme comprising two different subunits, called α or β, neither of which is functional by itself. Here, we have characterized a novel enzyme that functions in the mitosome, a highly reduced mitochondrion, of the pathogenic protist Giardia intestinalis. The Giardia enzyme is unique among eukaryotes because it has undergone reductive evolution to function efficiently as a single β-subunit monomer. We also show that the recent claim that the equivalent enzyme in the hydrogenosome, another type of reduced mitochondrion of the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis, functions as a homodimer of two β-subunits, is not supported. The Trichomonas enzyme requires both an α- and a β-subunit to function most efficiently. Computational analysis of the Giardia and Trichomonas enzymes reveals that their structures and surface charge distributions have co-evolved to match the peculiar properties of the targeting signals that they process. The Giardia mitosome is an ideal model for studying the limits of mitochondrial reductive evolution and, because it makes cofactors that are essential for Giardia survival, is a potential therapeutic target for this important human parasite.
PMCID: PMC2597178  PMID: 19096520
8.  Insight into trichomonas vaginalis genome evolution through metabolic pathways comparison 
Bioinformation  2012;8(4):189-195.
Trichomonas vaginalis causes the trichomoniasis, in women and urethritis and prostate cancer in men. Its genome draft published by TIGR in 2007 presents many unusual genomic and biochemical features like, exceptionally large genome size, the presence of hydrogenosome, gene duplication, lateral gene transfer mechanism and the presence of miRNA. To understand some of genomic features we have performed a comparative analysis of metabolic pathways of the T. vaginalis with other 22 significant common organisms. Enzymes from the biochemical pathways of T. vaginalis and other selected organisms were retrieved from the KEGG metabolic pathway database. The metabolic pathways of T. vaginalis common in other selected organisms were identified. Total 101 enzymes present in different metabolic pathways of T. vaginalis were found to be orthologous by using BLASTP program against the selected organisms. Except two enzymes all identified orthologous enzymes were also identified as paralogous enzymes. Seventy-five of identified enzymes were also identified as essential for the survival of T. vaginalis, while 26 as non-essential. The identified essential enzymes also represent as good candidate for novel drug targets. Interestingly, some of the identified orthologous and paralogous enzymes were found playing significant role in the key metabolic activities while others were found playing active role in the process of pathogenesis. The N-acetylneuraminate lyase was analyzed as the candidate of lateral genes transfer. These findings clearly suggest the active participation of lateral gene transfer and gene duplication during evolution of T. vaginalis from the enteric to the pathogenic urogenital environment.
PMCID: PMC3302000  PMID: 22419839
T. vaginalis; metabolic pathway; genome evolution; lateral gene transfer
9.  Prediction and analysis of paralogous proteins in Trichomonas vaginalis genome 
Bioinformation  2011;6(1):31-34.
Trichomonas vaginalis causes trichomoniasis, second most sexually transmitted disease. The genome sequence draft of T. vaginalis was published by The Institute of Genomic Research reveals an abnormally large genome size of 160 Mb. It was speculated that a significant portion of the proteome contains paralogous proteins. The present study was aimed at identification and analysis of the paralogous proteins. The all against all search approach is used to identify the paralogous proteins. The dataset of proteins was retrieved from TIGR and TrichDB FTP server. The BLAST-P program performed all against all database searches against the protein database of Trichomonas vaginalis available at NCBI genome database. In the present study about 50,000 proteins were searched where 2,700 proteins were found to be paralogous under the rigid selection criteria. The Pfam database search has identified significant number of paralogous proteins which were further categorized among different 1496 paralogous protein in pfam families, 1027 paralogous protein contains domain, 60 proteins were having different repeats and 1092 paralogous protein sequences of clans. Such identification and functional annotation of paralogous proteins will also help in removing paralogous proteins from possible drug targets in future. Presence of huge number of paralogous proteins across wide range of gene families and domains may be one of the possible mechanisms involved in the T. vaginalis genome expansion and evolution.
PMCID: PMC3064849  PMID: 21464842
T. vaginalis; pseudogenes; Paralogous proteins
10.  Hydrogenosome-localization of arginine deiminase in Trichomonas vaginalis 
The arginine dihydrolase (ADH) pathway has an analogous function to the urea cycle in mitochondria-containing cells, by removing nitrogen from amino acids and generating ATP. Subcellular localization of the ADH pathway enzymes in Trichomonas vaginalis revealed that arginine deiminase (ADI) localizes to the hydrogenosome, a mitochondrion-like organelle of anaerobic protists. However the other enzymes of the ADH pathway, ornithine carbamyltransferase and carbamate kinase localize to the cytosol. Three gene sequences of T. vaginalis ADI (ADI 1–3) were identified in the T. vaginalis genome, all having putative mitochondrial targeting sequences. The ADI sequences were cloned and used to probe T. vaginalis using a carboxyterminal di-hemogglutinin epitope tag which demonstrated co-localization with malic enzyme confirming the hydrogenosome localization of this enzyme.
PMCID: PMC3026898  PMID: 21074581
Trichomonas vaginalis; hydrogenosome; mitochondrion-like organelle; arginine dihydrolase pathway; arginine deiminase
11.  Structure of a Protozoan Virus from the Human Genitourinary Parasite Trichomonas vaginalis 
mBio  2013;4(2):e00056-13.
The flagellated protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis is an obligate human genitourinary parasite and the most frequent cause of sexually transmitted disease worldwide. Most clinical isolates of T. vaginalis are persistently infected with one or more double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses from the genus Trichomonasvirus, family Totiviridae, which appear to influence not only protozoan biology but also human disease. Here we describe the three-dimensional structure of Trichomonas vaginalis virus 1 (TVV1) virions, as determined by electron cryomicroscopy and icosahedral image reconstruction. The structure reveals a T = 1 capsid comprising 120 subunits, 60 in each of two nonequivalent positions, designated A and B, as previously observed for fungal Totiviridae family members. The putative protomer is identified as an asymmetric AB dimer consistent with either decamer or tetramer assembly intermediates. The capsid surface is notable for raised plateaus around the icosahedral 5-fold axes, with canyons connecting the 2- and 3-fold axes. Capsid-spanning channels at the 5-fold axes are unusually wide and may facilitate release of the viral genome, promoting dsRNA-dependent immunoinflammatory responses, as recently shown upon the exposure of human cervicovaginal epithelial cells to either TVV-infected T. vaginalis or purified TVV1 virions. Despite extensive sequence divergence, conservative features of the capsid reveal a helix-rich fold probably derived from an ancestor shared with fungal Totiviridae family members. Also notable are mass spectrometry results assessing the virion proteins as a complement to structure determination, which suggest that translation of the TVV1 RNA-dependent RNA polymerase in fusion with its capsid protein involves −2, and not +1, ribosomal frameshifting, an uncommonly found mechanism to date.
Trichomonas vaginalis causes ~250 million new cases of sexually transmitted disease each year worldwide and is associated with serious complications, including premature birth and increased transmission of other pathogens, including HIV. It is an extracellular parasite that, in turn, commonly hosts infections with double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) viruses, trichomonasviruses, which appear to exacerbate disease through signaling of immunoinflammatory responses by human epithelial cells. Here we report the first three-dimensional structure of a trichomonasvirus, which is also the first such structure of any protozoan dsRNA virus; show that it has unusually wide channels at the capsid vertices, with potential for releasing the viral genome and promoting dsRNA-dependent responses by human cells; and provide evidence that it uses −2 ribosomal frameshifting, an uncommon mechanism, to translate its RNA polymerase in fusion with its capsid protein. These findings provide both mechanistic and translational insights concerning the role of trichomonasviruses in aggravating disease attributable to T. vaginalis.
PMCID: PMC3622925  PMID: 23549915
12.  Fe-Hydrogenase Maturases in the Hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis†  
Eukaryotic Cell  2006;5(3):579-586.
Assembly of active Fe-hydrogenase in the chloroplasts of the green alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii requires auxiliary maturases, the S-adenosylmethionine-dependent enzymes HydG and HydE and the GTPase HydF. Genes encoding homologous maturases had been found in the genomes of all eubacteria that contain Fe-hydrogenase genes but not yet in any other eukaryote. By means of proteomic analysis, we identified a homologue of HydG in the hydrogenosomes, mitochondrion-related organelles that produce hydrogen under anaerobiosis by the activity of Fe-hydrogenase, in the pathogenic protist Trichomonas vaginalis. Genes encoding two other components of the Hyd system, HydE and HydF, were found in the T. vaginalis genome database. Overexpression of HydG, HydE, and HydF in trichomonads showed that all three proteins are specifically targeted to the hydrogenosomes, the site of Fe-hydrogenase maturation. The results of Neighbor-Net analyses of sequence similarities are consistent with a common eubacterial ancestor of HydG, HydE, and HydF in T. vaginalis and C. reinhardtii, supporting a monophyletic origin of Fe-hydrogenase maturases in the two eukaryotes. Although Fe-hydrogenases exist in only a few eukaryotes, related Narf proteins with different cellular functions are widely distributed. Thus, we propose that the acquisition of Fe-hydrogenases, together with Hyd maturases, occurred once in eukaryotic evolution, followed by the appearance of Narf through gene duplication of the Fe-hydrogenase gene and subsequent loss of the Hyd proteins in eukaryotes in which Fe-hydrogenase function was lost.
PMCID: PMC1398061  PMID: 16524912
13.  Beta-succinyl-coenzyme A synthetase from Trichomonas vaginalis is a soluble hydrogenosomal protein with an amino-terminal sequence that resembles mitochondrial presequences. 
Journal of Bacteriology  1992;174(21):6822-6830.
We describe studies directed toward understanding the biogenesis and origin of the hydrogenosome, an unusual organelle found exclusively in certain anaerobic eukaryotes that lack mitochondria. Hydrogenosomes are involved in fermentative carbohydrate metabolism and are proposed to have arisen through conversion of mitochondria or via endosymbiosis with an anaerobic bacterium. We cloned a gene encoding the beta subunit of the hydrogenosomal protein succinyl-coenzyme A synthetase (beta-SCS) and isolated the protein from Trichomonas vaginalis. The T. vaginalis beta-SCS gene encodes a protein with a calculated molecular mass of 43,980 Da that has 43% amino acid identity (65% similarity) with beta-SCS from Escherichia coli. The trichomonad protein partitions into the soluble fraction of hydrogenosomes treated with sodium carbonate at high pH, consistent with a matrix localization within the organelle. The protein is encoded by a multigene family composed of at least three members. Amino-terminal sequencing of beta-SCS purified from T. vaginalis hydrogenosomes shows that the mature protein lacks the first nine amino acids encoded in the gene. This apparent amino-terminal leader sequence is strikingly similar to that of another hydrogenosomal protein and to mitochondrial presequences.
PMCID: PMC207358  PMID: 1400232
14.  Extensive Genetic Diversity, Unique Population Structure and Evidence of Genetic Exchange in the Sexually Transmitted Parasite Trichomonas vaginalis 
Trichomonas vaginalis is the causative agent of human trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection world-wide. Despite its prevalence, little is known about the genetic diversity and population structure of this haploid parasite due to the lack of appropriate tools. The development of a panel of microsatellite makers and SNPs from mining the parasite's genome sequence has paved the way to a global analysis of the genetic structure of the pathogen and association with clinical phenotypes.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here we utilize a panel of T. vaginalis-specific genetic markers to genotype 235 isolates from Mexico, Chile, India, Australia, Papua New Guinea, Italy, Africa and the United States, including 19 clinical isolates recently collected from 270 women attending New York City sexually transmitted disease clinics. Using population genetic analysis, we show that T. vaginalis is a genetically diverse parasite with a unique population structure consisting of two types present in equal proportions world-wide. Parasites belonging to the two types (type 1 and type 2) differ significantly in the rate at which they harbor the T. vaginalis virus, a dsRNA virus implicated in parasite pathogenesis, and in their sensitivity to the widely-used drug, metronidazole. We also uncover evidence of genetic exchange, indicating a sexual life-cycle of the parasite despite an absence of morphologically-distinct sexual stages.
Our study represents the first robust and comprehensive evaluation of global T. vaginalis genetic diversity and population structure. Our identification of a unique two-type structure, and the clinically relevant phenotypes associated with them, provides a new dimension for understanding T. vaginalis pathogenesis. In addition, our demonstration of the possibility of genetic exchange in the parasite has important implications for genetic research and control of the disease.
Author Summary
The human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis causes trichomoniasis, the world's most common non-viral sexually transmitted infection. Research on T. vaginalis genetic diversity has been limited by a lack of appropriate genotyping tools. To address this problem, we recently published a panel of T. vaginalis-specific genetic markers; here we use these markers to genotype isolates collected from ten regions around the globe. We detect high levels of genetic diversity, infer a two-type population structure, identify clinically relevant differences between the two types, and uncover evidence of genetic exchange in what was believed to be a clonal organism. Together, these results greatly improve our understanding of the population genetics of T. vaginalis and provide insights into the possibility of genetic exchange in the parasite, with implications for the epidemiology and control of the disease. By taking into account the existence of different types and their unique characteristics, we can improve understanding of the wide range of symptoms that patients manifest and better implement appropriate drug treatment. In addition, by recognizing the possibility of genetic exchange, we are more equipped to address the growing concern of drug resistance and the mechanisms by which it may spread within parasite populations.
PMCID: PMC3313929  PMID: 22479659
15.  Presence of a Member of the Mitochondrial Carrier Family in Hydrogenosomes: Conservation of Membrane-Targeting Pathways between Hydrogenosomes and Mitochondria 
Molecular and Cellular Biology  2000;20(7):2488-2497.
A number of microaerophilic eukaryotes lack mitochondria but possess another organelle involved in energy metabolism, the hydrogenosome. Limited phylogenetic analyses of nuclear genes support a common origin for these two organelles. We have identified a protein of the mitochondrial carrier family in the hydrogenosome of Trichomonas vaginalis and have shown that this protein, Hmp31, is phylogenetically related to the mitochondrial ADP-ATP carrier (AAC). We demonstrate that the hydrogenosomal AAC can be targeted to the inner membrane of mitochondria isolated from Saccharomyces cerevisiae through the Tim9-Tim10 import pathway used for the assembly of mitochondrial carrier proteins. Conversely, yeast mitochondrial AAC can be targeted into the membranes of hydrogenosomes. The hydrogenosomal AAC contains a cleavable, N-terminal presequence; however, this sequence is not necessary for targeting the protein to the organelle. These data indicate that the membrane-targeting signal(s) for hydrogenosomal AAC is internal, similar to that found for mitochondrial carrier proteins. Our findings indicate that the membrane carriers and membrane protein-targeting machinery of hydrogenosomes and mitochondria have a common evolutionary origin. Together, they provide strong evidence that a single endosymbiont evolved into a progenitor organelle in early eukaryotic cells that ultimately give rise to these two distinct organelles and support the hydrogen hypothesis for the origin of the eukaryotic cell.
PMCID: PMC85448  PMID: 10713172
16.  The hydrogenosomes of Psalteriomonas lanterna 
Hydrogenosomes are organelles that produce molecular hydrogen and ATP. The broad phylogenetic distribution of their hosts suggests that the hydrogenosomes of these organisms evolved several times independently from the mitochondria of aerobic progenitors. Morphology and 18S rRNA phylogeny suggest that the microaerophilic amoeboflagellate Psalteriomonas lanterna, which possesses hydrogenosomes and elusive "modified mitochondria", belongs to the Heterolobosea, a taxon that consists predominantly of aerobic, mitochondriate organisms. This taxon is rather unrelated to taxa with hitherto studied hydrogenosomes.
Electron microscopy of P. lanterna flagellates reveals a large globule in the centre of the cell that is build up from stacks of some 20 individual hydrogenosomes. The individual hydrogenosomes are surrounded by a double membrane that encloses a homogeneous, dark staining matrix lacking cristae. The "modified mitochondria" are found in the cytoplasm of the cell and are surrounded by 1-2 cisterns of rough endoplasmatic reticulum, just as the mitochondria of certain related aerobic Heterolobosea. The ultrastructure of the "modified mitochondria" and hydrogenosomes is very similar, and they have the same size distribution as the hydrogenosomes that form the central stack.
The phylogenetic analysis of selected EST sequences (Hsp60, Propionyl-CoA carboxylase) supports the phylogenetic position of P. lanterna close to aerobic Heterolobosea (Naegleria gruberi). Moreover, this analysis also confirms the identity of several mitochondrial or hydrogenosomal key-genes encoding proteins such as a Hsp60, a pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase, a putative ADP/ATP carrier, a mitochondrial complex I subunit (51 KDa), and a [FeFe] hydrogenase.
Comparison of the ultrastructure of the "modified mitochondria" and hydrogenosomes strongly suggests that both organelles are just two morphs of the same organelle. The EST studies suggest that the hydrogenosomes of P. lanterna are physiologically similar to the hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis and Trimastix pyriformis. Phylogenetic analysis of the ESTs confirms the relationship of P. lanterna with its aerobic relative, the heterolobosean amoeboflagellate Naegleria gruberi, corroborating the evolution of hydrogenosomes from a common, mitochondriate ancestor.
PMCID: PMC2796672  PMID: 20003182
17.  The Trichomonas vaginalis hydrogenosome proteome is highly reduced relative to mitochondria, yet complex compared with mitosomes 
The human pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis lacks conventional mitochondria and instead contains divergent mitochondrial-related organelles. These double-membrane bound organelles, called hydrogenosomes, produce molecular hydrogen. Phylogenetic and biochemical analyses of hydrogenosomes indicate a common origin with mitochondria; however identification of hydrogenosomal proteins and studies on its metabolism have been limited. Here we provide a detailed proteomic analysis of the T. vaginalis hydrogenosome. The proteome of purified hydrogenosomes consists of 569 proteins, a number substantially lower than the 1,000 - 1,500 proteins reported for fungal and animal mitochondrial proteomes, yet considerably higher than proteins assigned to mitosomes. Pathways common to and distinct from both mitochondria and mitosomes were revealed by the hydrogenosome proteome. Proteins known to function in amino acid and energy metabolism, Fe-S cluster assembly, flavin-mediated catalysis, oxygen stress response, membrane translocation, chaperonin functions, proteolytic processing and ATP hydrolysis account for ∼30% of the hydrogenosome proteome. Of the 569 proteins in the hydrogenosome proteome, many appear to be associated with the external surface of hydrogenosomes, including large numbers of GTPases and ribosomal proteins. Glycolytic proteins were also found to be associated with the hydrogenosome proteome, similar to that previously observed for mitochondrial proteomes. Approximately 18% of the hydrogenosomal proteome is composed of hypothetical proteins of unknown function, predictive of multiple activities and properties yet to be uncovered for these highly adapted organelles.
Graphical abstract
PMCID: PMC4437511  PMID: 22079833
Hydrogenosome; Mitochondria; Mitosome; Organelle evolution; Parasite; Trichomonas
18.  Frataxin, a Conserved Mitochondrial Protein, in the Hydrogenosome of Trichomonas vaginalis▿  
Eukaryotic Cell  2007;6(8):1431-1438.
Recent data suggest that frataxin plays a key role in eukaryote cellular iron metabolism, particularly in mitochondrial heme and iron-sulfur (FeS) cluster biosynthesis. We have now identified a frataxin homologue (T. vaginalis frataxin) from the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. Instead of mitochondria, this unicellular eukaryote possesses hydrogenosomes, peculiar organelles that produce hydrogen but nevertheless share common ancestry with mitochondria. T. vaginalis frataxin contains conserved residues implicated in iron binding, and in silico, it is predicted to form a typical α-β sandwich motif. The short N-terminal extension of T. vaginalis frataxin resembles presequences that target proteins to hydrogenosomes, a prediction confirmed by the results of overexpression of T. vaginalis frataxin in T. vaginalis. When expressed in the mitochondria of a frataxin-deficient Saccharomyces cerevisiae strain, T. vaginalis frataxin partially restored defects in heme and FeS cluster biosynthesis. Although components of heme synthesis or heme-containing proteins have not been found in T. vaginalis to date, T. vaginalis frataxin was also shown to interact with S. cerevisiae ferrochelatase by using a Biacore assay. The discovery of conserved iron-metabolizing pathways in mitochondria and hydrogenosomes provides additional evidence not only of their common evolutionary history, but also of the fundamental importance of this pathway for eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC1951141  PMID: 17573543
19.  Protein Import into Hydrogenosomes of Trichomonas vaginalis Involves both N-Terminal and Internal Targeting Signals: a Case Study of Thioredoxin Reductases▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2008;7(10):1750-1757.
The parabasalian flagellate Trichomonas vaginalis harbors mitochondrion-related and H2-producing organelles of anaerobic ATP synthesis, called hydrogenosomes, which harbor oxygen-sensitive enzymes essential to its pyruvate metabolism. In the human urogenital tract, however, T. vaginalis is regularly exposed to low oxygen concentrations and therefore must possess antioxidant systems protecting the organellar environment against the detrimental effects of molecular oxygen and reactive oxygen species. We have identified two closely related hydrogenosomal thioredoxin reductases (TrxRs), the hitherto-missing component of a thioredoxin-linked hydrogenosomal antioxidant system. One of the two hydrogenosomal TrxR isoforms, TrxRh1, carried an N-terminal extension resembling known hydrogenosomal targeting signals. Expression of hemagglutinin-tagged TrxRh1 in transfected T. vaginalis cells revealed that its N-terminal extension was necessary to import the protein into the organelles. The second hydrogenosomal TrxR isoform, TrxRh2, had no N-terminal targeting signal but was nonetheless efficiently targeted to hydrogenosomes. N-terminal presequences from hydrogenosomal proteins with known processing sites, i.e., the alpha subunit of succinyl coenzyme A synthetase (SCSα) and pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase A, were investigated for their ability to direct mature TrxRh1 to hydrogenosomes. Neither presequence directed TrxRh1 to hydrogenosomes, indicating that neither extension is, by itself, sufficient for hydrogenosomal targeting. Moreover, SCSα lacking its N-terminal extension was efficiently imported into hydrogenosomes, indicating that this extension is not required for import of this major hydrogenosomal protein. The finding that some hydrogenosomal enzymes require N-terminal signals for import but that in others the N-terminal extension is not necessary for targeting indicates the presence of additional targeting signals within the mature subunits of several hydrogenosome-localized proteins.
PMCID: PMC2568060  PMID: 18676956
20.  Identification and Biochemical Characterization of Serine Hydroxymethyl Transferase in the Hydrogenosome of Trichomonas vaginalis▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2006;5(12):2072-2078.
Serine hydroxymethyl transferase (SHMT) is a pyridoxal phosphate (PLP)-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the reversible conversion of serine and tetrahydrofolate to glycine and methylenetetrahydrofolate. We have identified a single gene encoding SHMT in the genome of Trichomonas vaginalis, an amitochondriate, deep-branching unicellular protist. The protein possesses a putative N-terminal hydrogenosomal presequence and was shown to localize to hydrogensomes by immunofluorescence analysis, providing evidence of amino acid metabolism in this unusual organelle. In contrast to the tetrameric SHMT that exists in the mammalian host, we found that the T. vaginalis SHMT is a homodimer, as found in prokaryotes. All examined SHMT contain an 8-amino-acid conserved sequence, VTTTTHKT, containing the active-site lysyl residue (Lys 251 in TvSHMT) that forms an internal aldimine with PLP. We mutated this Lys residue to Arg and Gln and examined structural and catalytic properties of the wild-type and mutant enzymes in comparison to that reported for the mammalian protein. The oligomeric structure of the mutant K251R and K251Q TvSHMT was not affected, in contrast to that observed for comparable mutations in the mammalian enzyme. Likewise, contrary to that observed for mammalian SHMT, the catalytic activity of K251R TvSHMT was unaffected in the presence of PLP. The K251Q TvSHMT, however, was found to be inactive. These studies indicate that the active site of the parasite enzyme is distinct from its prokaryotic and eukaryotic counterparts and identify TvSHMT as a potential drug target.
PMCID: PMC1694819  PMID: 16980404
21.  The Essentials of Protein Import in the Degenerate Mitochondrion of Entamoeba histolytica 
PLoS Pathogens  2010;6(3):e1000812.
Several essential biochemical processes are situated in mitochondria. The metabolic transformation of mitochondria in distinct lineages of eukaryotes created proteomes ranging from thousands of proteins to what appear to be a much simpler scenario. In the case of Entamoeba histolytica, tiny mitochondria known as mitosomes have undergone extreme reduction. Only recently a single complete metabolic pathway of sulfate activation has been identified in these organelles. The E. histolytica mitosomes do not produce ATP needed for the sulfate activation pathway and for three molecular chaperones, Cpn60, Cpn10 and mtHsp70. The already characterized ADP/ATP carrier would thus be essential to provide cytosolic ATP for these processes, but how the equilibrium of inorganic phosphate could be maintained was unknown. Finally, how the mitosomal proteins are translocated to the mitosomes had remained unclear. We used a hidden Markov model (HMM) based search of the E. histolytica genome sequence to discover candidate (i) mitosomal phosphate carrier complementing the activity of the ADP/ATP carrier and (ii) membrane-located components of the protein import machinery that includes the outer membrane translocation channel Tom40 and membrane assembly protein Sam50. Using in vitro and in vivo systems we show that E. histolytica contains a minimalist set up of the core import components in order to accommodate a handful of mitosomal proteins. The anaerobic and parasitic lifestyle of E. histolytica has produced one of the simplest known mitochondrial compartments of all eukaryotes. Comparisons with mitochondria of another amoeba, Dictystelium discoideum, emphasize just how dramatic the reduction of the protein import apparatus was after the loss of archetypal mitochondrial functions in the mitosomes of E. histolytica.
Author Summary
All eukaryotic organisms have mitochondria, organelles cordoned by a double membrane, which are descendants of an ancestral bacterial endosymbiont. Nowadays, mitochondria are fully integrated into the context of diverse cellular processes and serve in providing energy, iron-containing prosthetic groups and some of the cellular building blocks like lipids and amino acids. In multi-cellular organisms, mitochondria play an additional vital role in cell signaling pathways and programmed cell death. In some unicellular eukaryotes which inhabit oxygen poor environments, intriguing mitochondrial adaptations have taken place resulting in the creation of specialized compartments known as mitosomes and hydrogenosomes. Several important human pathogens like Entamoeba histolytica, Giardia intestinalis, Trichomonas vaginalis and microsporidia contain these organelles and in many cases the function and biogenesis of these organelles remain unknown. In this paper, we investigated the protein import pathways into the mitosomes of E. histolytica, which represent one of the simplest mitochondria-related compartment discovered yet. In accordance with the limited organellar proteome, we show that only core components of mitochondria-related protein import machines are present in E. histolytica to serve for the import of a small set of substrate proteins.
PMCID: PMC2841616  PMID: 20333239
22.  Diagnosis of Trichomonas vaginalis Infection by PCR Using Vaginal Swab Samples 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1998;36(11):3205-3210.
Trichomonas vaginalis infection is the most prevalent nonviral sexually transmitted disease (STD) in the world. A PCR test using vaginal swab samples for the detection of T. vaginalis was developed to add T. vaginalis infection to the growing list of STDs that can be detected by DNA amplification techniques. A primer set, BTUB 9/2, was designed to target a well-conserved region in the beta-tubulin genes of T. vaginalis. All strains (15 of 15) of T. vaginalis tested were successfully detected by PCR giving a single predicted product of 112 bp in gel electrophoresis. No such targeted product was amplified with DNA from Trichomonas tenax, Trichomonas gallinae, Chlamydia trachomatis, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, Giardia lamblia, Chilomastix sulcatus, Dientamoeba fragilis, and Entamoeba histolytica. An optimal analytical sensitivity of one T. vaginalis organism per PCR was achieved. Culture, performed with the Inpouch TV culture system, was examined daily with a light microscope to identify T. vaginalis. Twenty-three of 350 (6.6%) vaginal swab samples from women attending an army medical clinic were culture positive for T. vaginalis. Of these culture positive specimens, PCR detected 22 of 23 (96%) with primer set BTUB 9/2, and wet preparation detected only 12 of 23 (52%). Seventeen specimens were BTUB 9/2-PCR positive and culture negative. Ten of these discordant specimens were determined to be as true positive by PCR using primer sets TVA 5-1/6 and/or AP65 A/B, which target different regions in the T. vaginalis genome, and seven were determined to be false positive. The sensitivity of BTUB 9/2-PCR was 97% and the specificity was 98%. The sensitivities of culture and wet preparation were 70 and 36%, respectively. The diagnosis of T. vaginalis infection by PCR is a sensitive and specific method that could be incorporated into a joint strategy for the screening of multiple STDs by using molecular amplification methods.
PMCID: PMC105302  PMID: 9774566
23.  Trichomonas vaginalis Exosomes Deliver Cargo to Host Cells and Mediate Host∶Parasite Interactions 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(7):e1003482.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a common sexually transmitted parasite that colonizes the human urogential tract where it remains extracellular and adheres to epithelial cells. Infections range from asymptomatic to highly inflammatory, depending on the host and the parasite strain. Here, we use a combination of methodologies including cell fractionation, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy, RNA, proteomic and cytokine analyses and cell adherence assays to examine pathogenic properties of T. vaginalis. We have found that T.vaginalis produces and secretes microvesicles with physical and biochemical properties similar to mammalian exosomes. The parasite-derived exosomes are characterized by the presence of RNA and core, conserved exosomal proteins as well as parasite-specific proteins. We demonstrate that T. vaginalis exosomes fuse with and deliver their contents to host cells and modulate host cell immune responses. Moreover, exosomes from highly adherent parasite strains increase the adherence of poorly adherent parasites to vaginal and prostate epithelial cells. In contrast, exosomes from poorly adherent strains had no measurable effect on parasite adherence. Exosomes from parasite strains that preferentially bind prostate cells increased binding of parasites to these cells relative to vaginal cells. In addition to establishing that parasite exosomes act to modulate host∶parasite interactions, these studies are the first to reveal a potential role for exosomes in promoting parasite∶parasite communication and host cell colonization.
Author Summary
Trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease worldwide, infects over 275 million people annually. Infection results from the colonization of the human urogenital tract by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. To establish and maintain infection the parasite adheres to host cells, a process that is poorly understood. Here, we show that T. vaginalis secretes small vesicles called exosomes that are capable of fusing with and delivering their contents to host cells. Parasite exosomes were found to induce changes in the host cell and to mediate the interaction of T. vaginalis with host by increasing the adherence of the parasite to host cells. Exosomes have been primarily studied in mammalian cells where they have been shown to mediate intercellular communication and have been implicated in processes including development, antigen presentation and cancer metastasis. Our data extend the function of exosomes to mediating host∶parasite interactions, cellular communication between two species and promoting colonization of an extracellular parasite. Research on T. vaginalis exosomes holds the potential for developing applications that would allow exosomes to be used in detecting and diagnosing trichomoniasis and for targeting drugs to the site of infection.
PMCID: PMC3708881  PMID: 23853596
24.  A new rapid molecular point-of-care assay for Trichomonas vaginalis: preliminary performance data 
Sexually transmitted infections  2013;89(6):495-497.
Trichomonas vaginalis infection is the most prevalent treatable sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world. An accurate point-of-care (PoC) molecular test would enable patients to be tested and treated for T vaginalis in a single visit to the genitourinary medicine clinic, community STI clinic, pharmacy or doctor’s office. In this report, we describe a rapid prototype assay for T vaginalis designed for use in conjunction with the Atlas io PoC platform, and initial verification of its performance using 90 clinical samples.
A rapid prototype T vaginalis assay was designed. The test, featuring novel electrochemical endpoint detection, used a multi-copy region of the T vaginalis genome as the assay target. Ninety clinical vaginal swab samples were used to verify the performance of the prototype assay.
The assay demonstrated a sensitivity and specificity of 95.5% (42/44) and 95.7% (44/46), respectively, when tested using clinical samples. Assay inclusivity was demonstrated for a number of geographically diverse T vaginalis isolates, and the test showed no cross-reactivity with either human DNA or a panel of DNAs isolated from common cross-reactants.
The sensitivity and specificity achieved using this prototype assay is comparable with that achieved for existing central laboratory nucleic acid amplification tests used for screening patients for T vaginalis.
PMCID: PMC3748243  PMID: 23605852
25.  Trichomonas vaginalis vast BspA-like gene family: evidence for functional diversity from structural organisation and transcriptomics 
BMC Genomics  2010;11:99.
Trichomonas vaginalis is the most common non-viral human sexually transmitted pathogen and importantly, contributes to facilitating the spread of HIV. Yet very little is known about its surface and secreted proteins mediating interactions with, and permitting the invasion and colonisation of, the host mucosa. Initial annotations of T. vaginalis genome identified a plethora of candidate extracellular proteins.
Data mining of the T. vaginalis genome identified 911 BspA-like entries (TvBspA) sharing TpLRR-like leucine-rich repeats, which represent the largest gene family encoding potential extracellular proteins for the pathogen. A broad range of microorganisms encoding BspA-like proteins was identified and these are mainly known to live on mucosal surfaces, among these T. vaginalis is endowed with the largest gene family. Over 190 TvBspA proteins with inferred transmembrane domains were characterised by a considerable structural diversity between their TpLRR and other types of repetitive sequences and two subfamilies possessed distinct classic sorting signal motifs for endocytosis. One TvBspA subfamily also shared a glycine-rich protein domain with proteins from Clostridium difficile pathogenic strains and C. difficile phages. Consistent with the hypothesis that TvBspA protein structural diversity implies diverse roles, we demonstrated for several TvBspA genes differential expression at the transcript level in different growth conditions. Identified variants of repetitive segments between several TvBspA paralogues and orthologues from two clinical isolates were also consistent with TpLRR and other repetitive sequences to be functionally important. For one TvBspA protein cell surface expression and antibody responses by both female and male T. vaginalis infected patients were also demonstrated.
The biased mucosal habitat for microbial species encoding BspA-like proteins, the characterisation of a vast structural diversity for the TvBspA proteins, differential expression of a subset of TvBspA genes and the cellular localisation and immunological data for one TvBspA; all point to the importance of the TvBspA proteins to various aspects of T. vaginalis pathobiology at the host-pathogen interface.
PMCID: PMC2843621  PMID: 20144183

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