In most organisms 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate (10-CHO-THF) participates in the synthesis of purines in the cytosol and formylation of mitochondrial initiator methionyl-tRNAMet. Here we studied 10-CHO-THF biosynthesis in the protozoan parasite Leishmania major, a purine auxotroph. Two distinct synthetic enzymes are known, a bifunctional methylene-tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase (DHCH) or formyl-tetrahydrofolate ligase (FTL), and phylogenomic profiling revealed considerable diversity for these in trypanosomatids. All species surveyed contain a DHCH1, which was shown recently to be essential in L. major. A second DHCH2 occurred only in L. infantum, L. mexicana and T. cruzi, and as a pseudogene in L. major. DHCH2s bear N-terminal extensions and we showed a LiDHCH2-GFP fusion was targeted to the mitochondrion. FTLs were found in all species except Trypanosoma brucei. L. major ftl− null mutants were phenotypically normal in growth, differentiation, animal infectivity and sensitivity to a panel of pteridine analogs, but grew more slowly when starved for serine or glycine, as expected for amino acids that are substrates in C1-folate metabolism. Cell fractionation and western blotting showed that both L. major DHCH1 and FTL were localized to the cytosol and not the mitochondrion. These localization data predict that in L. major cytosolic 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate must be transported into the mitochondrion to support methionyl-tRNAMet formylation. The retention in all the trypanosomatids of at least one enzyme involved in 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate biosynthesis, and the essentiality of this metabolite in L. major, suggests that this pathway represents a promising new area for chemotherapeutic attack in these parasites.
10-formyl tetrahydrofolate is a key metabolite in C1 carbon metabolism, arising through the action of formate-tetrahydrofolate ligase (FTL) and/or 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase/5,10-methylene tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (DHCH). Leishmania major possesses single DHCH1 and FTL genes encoding exclusively cytosolic proteins, unlike other organisms where isoforms occur in the mitochondrion as well. Recombinant DHCH1 showed typical NADP+-dependent methylene tetrahydrofolate DH and 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate CH activities, and the DH activity was potently inhibited by a substrate analog 5,10-CO-THF (Ki 105 nM), as was Leishmania growth (EC50 1.1 μM). Previous studies showed null ftl− mutants were normal, raising the possibility that loss of the purine synthetic pathway had rendered 10-CHO-THF dispensable in evolution. We were unable to generate dhch1− null mutants by gene replacement, despite using a wide spectrum of nutritional supplements expected to bypass DHCH function. We applied an improved method for testing essential genes in Leishmania, based upon segregational loss of episomal complementing genes rather than transfection; analysis of ~1400 events without successful loss of DHCH1 again established its requirement. Lastly, we employed ‘genetic metabolite complementation’ using ectopically expressed FTL as an alternative source of 10-CHO-THF; now dhch1− null parasites were readily obtained. These data establish a requirement for 10-CHO tetrahydrofolate metabolism in L. major, and provide genetic and pharmacological validation of DHCH as a target for chemotherapy, in this and potentially other protozoan parasites.
trypanosomatid protozoa; C1-THF metabolism; 1 carbon transfer; chemotherapy; formyl methionyl-tRNA
The bifunctional N5,N10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase (DHCH or FolD), which is widely distributed in prokaryotes and eukaryotes, is involved in the biosynthesis of folate cofactors that are essential for growth and cellular development. The enzyme activities represent a potential antimicrobial drug target. We have characterized the kinetic properties of FolD from the Gram-negative pathogen Acinetobacter baumanni and determined high-resolution crystal structures of complexes with a cofactor and two potent inhibitors. The data reveal new details with respect to the molecular basis of catalysis and potent inhibition. A unexpected finding was that our crystallographic data revealed a different structure for LY374571 (an inhibitor studied as an antifolate) than that previously published. The implications of this observation are discussed.
antifolate; cyclohydrolase; dehydrogenase; enzyme inhibition; X-ray structure
The bifunctional enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase – cyclohydrolase (FolD) is identified as a potential drug target in Gram-negative bacteria, in particular the troublesome Pseudomonas aeruginosa. In order to provide a comprehensive and realistic assessment of the potential of this target for drug discovery we generated a highly efficient recombinant protein production system and purification protocol, characterized the enzyme, carried out screening of two commercial compound libraries by differential scanning fluorimetry, developed a high-throughput enzyme assay and prosecuted a screening campaign against almost 80,000 compounds. The crystal structure of P. aeruginosa FolD was determined at 2.2 Å resolution and provided a template for an assessment of druggability and for modelling of ligand complexes as well as for comparisons with the human enzyme. New FolD inhibitors were identified and characterized but the weak levels of enzyme inhibition suggest that these compounds are not optimal starting points for future development. Furthermore, the close similarity of the bacterial and human enzyme structures suggest that selective inhibition might be difficult to attain. In conclusion, although the preliminary biological data indicates that FolD represents a valuable target for the development of new antibacterial drugs, indeed spurred us to investigate it, our screening results and structural data suggest that this would be a difficult enzyme to target with respect to developing the appropriate lead molecules required to underpin a serious drug discovery effort.
Genetic variants in MTHFD1 (5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/ 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase/ 10-formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase), an important folate metabolic enzyme, are associated with a number of common diseases, including neural tube defects (NTDs). This study investigates the promoter of the human MTHFD1 gene in a bid to understand how this gene is controlled and regulated. Following a combination of in silico and molecular approaches, we report that MTHFD1 expression is controlled by a TATA-less, Initiator-less promoter and transcription is initiated at multiple start sites over a 126bp region. We confirmed the presence of three database polymorphisms (dbSNP) by direct sequencing of the upstream region (rs1076991 C>T, rs8010584 G>A, rs4243628 G>T), with a fourth (dbSNP rs746488 A>T) not found to be polymorphic in our population and no novel polymorphisms identified. We demonstrate that a common SNP rs1076991 C>T within the window of transcriptional initiation exerts a significant effect on promoter activity in vitro. We investigated this SNP as a potential risk factor for NTDs in a large homogenous Irish population and determined that it is not an independent risk factor, but, it does increase both case (χ2 = 11.06, P = 0.001) and maternal (χ2 = 6.68, P = 0.01) risk when allele frequencies were analysed in combination with the previously identified disease-associated p.R653Q (c.1958 G>A; dbSNP rs2236225) polymorphism. These results provide the first insight into how MTHFD1 is regulated and further emphasise its importance during embryonic development.
MTHFD1; NTD; Functional; SNP; R653Q; Promoter
Clostridium formicoaceticum ferments fructose labeled with 14C in carbon 1, 4, 5, or 6 via the Embden Meyerhof pathway. In fermentations of fructose in the presence of 14CO2, acetate is formed labeled equally in both carbons. Extracts convert the methyl groups of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate and methyl-B12 to the methyl group of acetate in the presence of pyruvate. Formate dehydrogenase, 10-formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase, 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase, 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase, and 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase are present in extracts of C. formicoaceticum. These enzymes are needed for the conversion of CO2 to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. It is proposed that acetate is totally synthesized from CO2 via the reactions catalyzed by the enzymes listed above and that 5-methyltetra-hydrofolate and a methylcorrinoid are intermediates in this synthesis.
Folate-dependent enzymes are compartmentalized between the cytoplasm and mitochondria of eukaryotes. The role of mitochondrial folate-dependent metabolism and the extent of its contribution to cytoplasmic processes are areas of active investigation. NAD-dependent methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase (NMDMC) catalyzes the interconversion of 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate and 10-formyltetrahydrofolate in mitochondria of mammalian cells, but its metabolic role is not yet clear. Its expression in embryonic tissues but not in most adult tissues as well as its stringent transcriptional regulation led us to postulate that it may play a role in embryonic development. To investigate the metabolic role of NMDMC, we used a knockout approach to delete the nmdmc gene in mice. Heterozygous mice appear healthy, but homozygous NMDMC knockout mice die in utero. At embryonic day 12.5 (E12.5), homozygous null embryos exhibit no obvious developmental defects but are smaller and pale and die soon thereafter. Mutant fetal livers contain fewer nucleated cells and lack the characteristic redness of wild-type or heterozygous livers. The frequencies of CFU-erythroid (CFU-E) and burst-forming unit-erythroid (BFU-E) from fetal livers of E12.5 null mutants were not reduced compared with those of wild-type or heterozygous embryos. It has been assumed that initiation of protein synthesis in mitochondria requires a formylated methionyl-tRNAfmet. One role postulated for NMDMC is to provide 10-formyltetrahydrofolate as a formyl group donor for the synthesis of this formylmethionyl-tRNAfmet. To determine if the loss of NMDMC impairs protein synthesis and thus could be a cause of embryonic lethality, mitochondrial translation products were examined in cells in culture. Mitochondrial protein synthesis was unaffected in NMDMC-null mutant cell lines compared with the wild type. These results show that NMDMC is not required to support initiation of protein synthesis in mitochondria in isolated cells but instead demonstrate an essential role for mitochondrial folate metabolism during embryonic development.
The 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase of heterotrophically grown Peptostreptococcus productus Marburg was purified to apparent homogeneity. The purified enzyme catalyzed the reversible oxidation of methylenetetrahydrofolate with NADP+ as the electron acceptor at a specific activity of 627 U/mg of protein. The Km values for methylenetetrahydrofolate and for NADP+ were 27 and 113 microM, respectively. The enzyme, which lacked 5,10-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase activity, was insensitive to oxygen and was thermolabile at temperatures above 40 degrees C. The apparent molecular mass of the enzyme was estimated by gel filtration to be 66 kDa. Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis revealed the presence of a single subunit of 34 kDa, accounting for a dimeric alpha 2 structure of the enzyme. Kinetic studies on the initial reaction velocities with different concentrations of both substrates in the absence and presence of NADPH as the reaction product were interpreted to indicate that the enzyme followed a sequential reaction mechanism. After gentle ultracentrifugation of crude extracts, the enzyme was recovered to greater than 95% in the soluble (supernatant) fraction. Sodium (10 microM to 10 mM) had no effect on enzymatic activity. The data were taken to indicate that the enzyme was similar to the methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenases of other homoacetogenic bacteria and that the enzyme is not involved in energy conservation of P. productus.
Trypanosomatid parasitic protozoans of the genus Leishmania are autotrophic for both folate and unconjugated pteridines. Leishmania salvage these metabolites from their mammalian hosts and insect vectors through multiple transporters. Within the parasite, folates are reduced by a bifunctional DHFR (dihydrofolate reductase)-TS (thymidylate synthase) and by a novel PTR1 (pteridine reductase 1), which reduces both folates and unconjugated pteridines. PTR1 can act as a metabolic bypass of DHFR inhibition, reducing the effectiveness of existing antifolate drugs. Leishmania possess a reduced set of folate-dependent metabolic reactions and can salvage many of the key products of folate metabolism from their hosts. For example, they lack purine synthesis, which normally requires 10-formyltetrahydrofolate, and instead rely on a network of purine salvage enzymes. Leishmania elaborate at least three pathways for the synthesis of the key metabolite 5,10-methylene-tetrahydrofolate, required for the synthesis of thymidylate, and for 10-formyltetrahydrofolate, whose presumptive function is for methionyl-tRNAMet formylation required for mitochondrial protein synthesis. Genetic studies have shown that the synthesis of methionine using 5-methyltetrahydrofolate is dispensable, as is the activity of the glycine cleavage complex, probably due to redundancy with serine hydroxymethyltransferase. Although not always essential, the loss of several folate metabolic enzymes results in attenuation or loss of virulence in animal models, and a null DHFR-TS mutant has been used to induce protective immunity. The folate metabolic pathway provides numerous opportunities for targeted chemotherapy, with strong potential for ‘repurposing’ of compounds developed originally for treatment of human cancers or other infectious agents.
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.
Sequence analysis of the 5'-flanking region of the gene encoding NAD-dependent methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase-methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase (NMDMC) revealed several putative cis-regulatory elements. To delineate the function of these regulatory elements, various deletion mutants of the 5'-flanking region were connected to the reporter gene chloramphenicol acetyltransferase (CAT) and promoter activity was measured in transient transfection assays. Transfection experiments performed with the sequence extending from -508 to +59 produced a high-level transient expression of the CAT gene in BALB/c 3T3-SV-T2 and NIH 3T3 cells. Removal of the sequence from +16 to +59 which includes the second transcription start point at +43, a TATA-like box and 5'-untranslated sequences abolished the promoter activity. Deletion analysis of 5'-upstream sequences revealed that the region from positions -55 to +59 is sufficient to mediate a high CAT activity comparable to the level obtained with the construct -508/+59. Within this region are found a CAAT box, a TATA-like box and two putative GC boxes. A functional analysis of the promoter showed that the sequence from -55 to +59 is sufficient to respond to stimulation by serum.
The methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase of the amethopterin-resistant strain Streptococcus faecium var. durans Ak was purified 100-fold. Because it is extremely labile, this enzyme required protection by 1 mm nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+) during purification; 0.01 mm EADP+ with 0.1% bovine plasma albumin stabilized the purified enzyme during storage at −20 C. Although the enzyme has properties of sulfhydryl enzymes, thiol compounds were not stabilizers. Oxidation of methylenetetrahydrofolate, catalyzed by the purified enzyme preparation, is NADP+-specific and yields methenyltetrahydrofolate and the reduced pyridine nucleotide. Km values for NADP+ and for 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate (prepared as the formaldehyde adduct of biologically synthesized l,l-tetrahydrofolate) were calculated to be 0.021 and 0.026 mm, respectively. Neither purine bases and their derivatives nor serine inhibited the reaction. In growing cultures, the differential rate of synthesis of the methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase was dependent upon the composition of the medium. A medium which contained acid-hydrolyzed casein, and thus an exogenous source of serine, was repressive for this enzyme. In a serine-free, completely defined medium, the amount of folate added (for serine synthesis de novo) affected the duration of the initial exponential growth phase. At the termination of this phase, which primarily reflected the onset of a decreased rate of serine biosynthesis, synthesis of the methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase was derepressed. Exogenous serine in the completely defined medium prevented the derepression. Furthermore, physiological concentrations of l-serine were repressive not only for the dehydrogenase but also for the methenyltetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase and the serine hydroxymethyl-transferase. Concomitantly, the differential rate of synthesis of the formyltetrahydrofolate synthetase of S. faecium var. durans Ak was increased. Apparently, serine regulates the differential rates of syntheses of these enzymes.
Purine biosynthesis requires ten enzymatic steps in higher organisms while prokaryotes require an additional enzyme for step six. In most organisms steps nine and ten are catalyzed by the purH gene product, a bifunctional enzyme with both 5-formaminoimidazole-4-carboxamide-5′-monophosphate ribonucleotide (FAICAR) synthase and inosine monophosphate (IMP) cyclohydrolase activity. Recently it was discovered that Archaea utilize different enzymes to catalyze steps nine and ten. An ATP dependent FAICAR synthetase is encoded by the purP gene and IMP cyclohydrolase is encoded by the purO gene. We have determined the X-ray crystal structures of FAICAR synthetase from Methanocaldococcus jannaschii complexed with various ligands, including the tertiary substrate complex and product complex. The enzyme belongs to the ATP grasp superfamily and is predicted to use a formylphosphate intermediate formed by an ATP-dependent phosphorylation. In addition, we have determined the structures of a PurP ortholog from Pyrococcus furiosus, which is functionally unclassified, in three crystal forms. With approximately 50% sequence identity, P. furiosus PurP is structurally homologous to M. jannaschii PurP. A phylogenetic analysis was performed to explore the possible role of this functionally unclassified PurP.
A potent immunosuppressive drug cyclosporin A (CsA) is known to inhibit human cell infection by the pathogenic protozoan parasite Leishmania major both in vitro and in vivo. The proposed mechanism of action involves CsA binding to Leishmania major-expressed cyclophilin and subsequent down-regulation of signaling events necessary for establishing productive infection. Recently, we identified a ubiquitously expressed membrane protein, CD147, as a signaling receptor for extracellular cyclophilins in mammalian cells. Here we demonstrate that, while being enzymatically active, the Leishmania cyclophilin, unlike its human homologue, does not interact with CD147 on the cell surface of target cells. CD147 facilitates neither Leishmania binding nor infection. Primary structure and biochemical analyses revealed that the parasite’s cyclophilin is defective in heparan binding, an event required for signaling interaction between CD147 and human cyclophilin. When the heparan-binding motif was reconstituted in Leishmania cyclophilin, it regained the CD147-dependent signaling activity. These results underscore a critical role of cyclophilin-heparan interactions in CD147-mediated signaling events and argue against the role of Leishmania cyclophilin in parasite binding to target cells.
Leishmania major; Promastigote; Heparan sulphate; Cyclophilin; CD147
Target repurposing utilizes knowledge of “druggable” targets obtained in one organism and exploits this information to pursue new potential drug targets in other organisms. Here we describe such studies to evaluate whether inhibitors targeting the kinase domain of the mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) and human phosphoinositide-3-kinases (PI3Ks) show promise against the kinetoplastid parasites Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi, Leishmania major, and L. donovani. The genomes of trypanosomatids encode at least 12 proteins belonging to the PI3K protein superfamily, some of which are unique to parasites. Moreover, the shared PI3Ks differ greatly in sequence from those of the human host, thereby providing opportunities for selective inhibition.
We focused on 8 inhibitors targeting mTOR and/or PI3Ks selected from various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development, and tested them against in vitro parasite cultures and in vivo models of infection. Several inhibitors showed micromolar or better efficacy against these organisms in culture. One compound, NVP-BEZ235, displayed sub-nanomolar potency, efficacy against cultured parasites, and an ability to clear parasitemia in an animal model of T. brucei rhodesiense infection.
These studies strongly suggest that mammalian PI3/TOR kinase inhibitors are a productive starting point for anti-trypanosomal drug discovery. Our data suggest that NVP-BEZ235, an advanced clinical candidate against solid tumors, merits further investigation as an agent for treating African sleeping sickness.
In our study we describe the potency of established phosphoinositide-3-kinase (PI3K) and mammalian Target of Rapamycin (mTOR) kinase inhibitors against three trypanosomatid parasites: Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi, and Leishmania sp., which are the causative agents for African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, and leishmaniases, respectively. We noted that these parasites and humans express similar kinase enzymes. Since these similar human targets have been pursued by the drug industry for many years in the discovery of cellular growth and proliferation inhibitors, compounds developed as human anti-cancer agents should also have effect on inhibiting growth and proliferation of the parasites. With that in mind, we selected eight established PI3K and mTOR inhibitors for profiling against these pathogens. Among these inhibitors is an advanced clinical candidate against cancer, NVP-BEZ235, which we demonstrate to be a highly potent trypanocide in parasite cultures, and in a mouse model of T. brucei infection. Additionally, we describe observations of these inhibitors' effects on parasite growth and other cellular characteristics.
A crystallographic and biochemical study of L. major cysteine synthase, which is a pyridoxyl phosphate-dependent enzyme, is reported. The structure was determined to 1.8 Å resolution and revealed that the cofactor has been lost and that a fragment of γ-poly-d-glutamic acid, a crystallization ingredient, was bound in the active site. The enzyme was inhibited by peptides.
Cysteine biosynthesis is a potential target for drug development against parasitic Leishmania species; these protozoa are responsible for a range of serious diseases. To improve understanding of this aspect of Leishmania biology, a crystallographic and biochemical study of L. major cysteine synthase has been undertaken, seeking to understand its structure, enzyme activity and modes of inhibition. Active enzyme was purified, assayed and crystallized in an orthorhombic form with a dimer in the asymmetric unit. Diffraction data extending to 1.8 Å resolution were measured and the structure was solved by molecular replacement. A fragment of γ-poly-d-glutamic acid, a constituent of the crystallization mixture, was bound in the enzyme active site. Although a d-glutamate tetrapeptide had insignificant inhibitory activity, the enzyme was competitively inhibited (K
i = 4 µM) by DYVI, a peptide based on the C-terminus of the partner serine acetyltransferase with which the enzyme forms a complex. The structure surprisingly revealed that the cofactor pyridoxal phosphate had been lost during crystallization.
Arabidopsis thaliana; cysteine synthase; Leishmania major
Isoprenoid precursor synthesis via the mevalonate route in humans and pathogenic trypanosomatids is an important metabolic pathway. There is however, only limited information available on the structure and reactivity of the component enzymes in trypanosomatids. Since isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for trypanosomatid viability and may provide new targets for therapeutic intervention it is important to characterize the pathway components.
Putative mevalonate kinase encoding genes from Leishmania major (LmMK) and Trypanosoma brucei (TbMK) have been cloned, over-expressed in and proteins isolated from procyclic-form T. brucei. A highly sensitive radioactive assay was developed and shows ATP-dependent phosphorylation of mevalonate. Apo and (R)-mevalonate bound crystal structures of LmMK, from a bacterial expression system, have been determined to high resolution providing, for the first time, information concerning binding of mevalonate to an MK. The mevalonate binds in a deep cavity lined by highly conserved residues. His25 is key for binding and for discrimination of (R)- over (S)-mevalonate, with the main chain amide interacting with the C3 hydroxyl group of (R)-mevalonate, and the side chain contributing, together with Val202 and Thr283, to the construction of a hydrophobic binding site for the C3 methyl substituent. The C5 hydroxyl, where phosphorylation occurs, points towards catalytic residues, Lys18 and Asp155. The activity of LmMK was significantly reduced compared to MK from other species and we were unable to obtain ATP-binding data. Comparisons with the rat MK:ATP complex were used to investigate how this substrate might bind. In LmMK, helix α2 and the preceding polypeptide adopt a conformation, not seen in related kinase structures, impeding access to the nucleotide triphosphate binding site suggesting that a conformational rearrangement is required to allow ATP binding.
Our new structural information, consistent with data on homologous enzymes allows a detailed description of how mevalonate is recognized and positioned for catalysis in MK. The mevalonate-binding site is highly conserved yet the ATP-binding site is structurally distinct in LmMK. We are unable to provide a definitive explanation for the low activity of recombinant protein isolated from a bacterial expression system compared to material isolated from procyclic-form Trypanosoma brucei.
Modification of the lipid A moiety of lipopolysaccharide by the addition of the sugar, 4-amino-4-deoxy-L-arabinose (L-Ara4N), is a strategy adopted by pathogenic Gram-negative bacteria to evade cationic antimicrobial peptides produced by the innate immune system. L-Ara4N biosynthesis is therefore a potential anti-infective target, as inhibiting its synthesis would render certain pathogens more sensitive to the immune system. The bifunctional enzyme ArnA, which is required for L-Ara4N biosynthesis, catalyzes the NAD+-dependent oxidative-decarboxylation of UDP-glucuronic acid to generate a UDP-4′-keto-pentose sugar, and also catalyzes transfer of a formyl group from N-10-formyltetrahydrofolate to the 4′-amine of UDP-L-Ara4N. We now report the crystal structure of the N-terminal formyltransferase domain in a complex with uridine monophosphate and N-5-formyltetrahydrofolate. Using this structure we identify the active site of formyltransfer in ArnA including the key catalytic residues N102, H104, and D140. Additionally, we have shown that residues S433 and E434 of the decarboxylase domain are required for the oxidative-decarboxylation of UDP-GlcUA. An E434Q mutant is inactive suggesting that chemical rather than steric properties of this residue are crucial in the decarboxylation reaction. Our data suggests that the decarboxylase domain catalyzes both hydride abstraction (oxidation) from the C-4′ position and the subsequent decarboxylation.
site directed mutagenesis; X-ray crystallography; drug design; LPS biosynthesis; polymyxin resistance
In eucaryotes, 10-formyltetrahydrofolate (formyl-THF) synthetase, 5,10-methenyl-THF cyclohydrolase, and NADP(+)-dependent 5,10-methylene-THF dehydrogenase activities are present on a single polypeptide termed C1-THF synthase. This trifunctional enzyme, encoded by the ADE3 gene in the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, is thought to be responsible for the synthesis of the one-carbon donor 10-formyl-THF for de novo purine synthesis. Deletion of the ADE3 gene causes adenine auxotrophy, presumably as a result of the lack of cytoplasmic 10-formyl-THF. In this report, defined point mutations that affected one or more of the catalytic activities of yeast C1-THF synthase were generated in vitro and transferred to the chromosomal ADE3 locus by gene replacement. In contrast to ADE3 deletions, point mutations that inactivated all three activities of C1-THF synthase did not result in an adenine requirement. Heterologous expression of the Clostridium acidiurici gene encoding a monofunctional 10-formyl-THF synthetase in an ade3 deletion strain did not restore growth in the absence of adenine, even though the monofunctional synthetase was catalytically competent in vivo. These results indicate that adequate cytoplasmic 10-formyl-THF can be produced by an enzyme(s) other than C1-THF synthase, but efficient utilization of that 10-formyl-THF for purine synthesis requires a nonenzymatic function of C1-THF synthase. A monofunctional 5,10-methylene-THF dehydrogenase, dependent on NAD+ for catalysis, has been identified and purified from yeast cells (C. K. Barlowe and D. R. Appling, Biochemistry 29:7089-7094, 1990). We propose that the characteristics of strains expressing full-length but catalytically inactive C1-THF synthase could result from the formation of a purine-synthesizing multienzyme complex involving the structurally unchanged C1-THF synthase and that production of the necessary one-carbon units in these strains is accomplished by an NAD+ -dependent 5,10-methylene-THF dehydrogenase.
Glycolysis and glyconeogenesis play crucial roles in the ATP supply and synthesis of glycoconjugates, important for the viability and virulence, respectively, of the human-pathogenic stages of Trypanosoma brucei, Trypanosoma cruzi, and Leishmania spp. These pathways are, therefore, candidate targets for antiparasite drugs. The glycolytic/gluconeogenic enzyme enolase is generally highly conserved, with similar overall fold and identical catalytic residues in all organisms. Nonetheless, potentially important differences exist between the trypanosomatid and host enzymes, with three unique, reactive residues close to the active site of the former that might be exploited for the development of new drugs. In addition, enolase is found both in the secretome and in association with the surface of Leishmania spp. where it probably functions as plasminogen receptor, playing a role in the parasite's invasiveness and virulence, a function possibly also present in the other trypanosomatids. This location and possible function of enolase offer additional perspectives for both drug discovery and vaccination.
Functional nonsynonymous single-nucleotide polymorphisms (nsSNPs) of folate metabolism genes can influence the methylation of tumour suppressor genes, thereby potentially impacting on tumour behaviour. To investigate whether such polymorphisms influence lung cancer survival, we genotyped 14 nsSNPs mapping to methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), methionine synthase (MTR), methionine synthase reductase (MTRR); DNA methyltransferase (DNMT2), methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase (MTHFD1) and methenyltetrahydrofolate synthetase (MTHFS) in 619 Caucasian women with incident disease, 465 with non-small cell (NSCLC) and 154 with small cell lung cancer (SCLC). The most significant association detected was with MTHFS Thr202Ala, with carriers of variant alleles having a worse prognosis (hazard ratio (HR)=1.49; 95% confidence interval: 1.14–1.94). Associations were also detected between overall survival (OS) in SCLC and homozygosity for MTHFR 222Val (HR=1.92; 1.03–3.58) and between OS from NSCLC and MTRR 175Leu carrier status (HR=1.36; 1.06–1.75). While there is evidence that variation in the folate metabolism genes may influence prognosis from lung cancer, current data are insufficiently robust to distinguish individual patient outcome.
lung cancer; SNP; prognosis; folate metabolism
Leishmaniasis is a neglected disease caused by Leishmania, an intracellular protozoan parasite which possesses a unique thiol metabolism based on trypanothione. Trypanothione is used as a source of electrons by the tryparedoxin/tryparedoxin peroxidase system (TXN/TXNPx) to reduce the hydroperoxides produced by macrophages during infection. This detoxification pathway is not only unique to the parasite but is also essential for its survival; therefore, it constitutes a most attractive drug target. Several forms of TXNPx, with very high sequence identity to one another, have been found in Leishmania strains, one of which has been used as a component of a potential anti-leishmanial polyprotein vaccine. The structures of cytosolic TXN and TXNPx from L. major (LmTXN and LmTXNPx) offer a unique opportunity to study peroxide reduction in Leishmania parasites at a molecular level, and may provide new tools for multienzyme inhibition-based drug discovery. Structural analyses bring out key structural features to elucidate LmTXN and LmTXNPx function. LmTXN displays an unusual N-terminal α-helix which allows the formation of a stable domain-swapped dimer. In LmTXNPx, crystallized in reducing condition, both the locally unfolded (LU) and fully folded (FF) conformations, typical of the oxidized and reduced protein respectively, are populated. The structural analysis presented here points to a high flexibility of the loop that includes the peroxidatic cysteine which facilitates Cys52 to form an inter-chain disulfide bond with the resolving cysteine (Cys173), thereby preventing over-oxidation which would inactivate the enzyme. Analysis of the electrostatic surface potentials of both LmTXN and LmTXNPx unveils the structural elements at the basis of functionally relevant interaction between the two proteins. Finally, the structural analysis of TXNPx allows us to identify the position of the epitopes that make the protein antigenic and therefore potentially suitable to be used in an anti-leishmanial polyprotein vaccine.
Leishmania spp. are protozoa responsible for Leishmaniases, neglected diseases killing up to 60,000 people every year. Current therapies rely mainly on antimonial drugs that are inadequate due to poor drug efficacy and safety, combined with increasing drug resistance. To overcome these problems, there is an urgent need to find new and more affordable drugs. Leishmania reduces the hydrogen peroxide produced by macrophages during the infection by means of the tryparedoxin/tryparedoxin peroxidase couple. The two enzymes are potentially suitable drug targets since they are both necessary for parasite survival and absent in the human host. To understand the molecular basis of peroxide reduction in the Leishmania parasites, we have solved the X-ray crystal structures of both enzymes. Structural analyses highlight oligomerization of the two proteins and allow the regions responsible for their interaction to be identified. Moreover, based on the X-ray structures and on electronic microscopy data present in literature for the homologous proteins from Trypanosoma brucei, we have generated a model of interaction between tryparedoxin and tryparedoxin peroxidase from L. major. From the X-ray structure and from this model, we have identified the epitopes of tryparedoxin peroxidase, which is part of a potential threecomponent vaccine that is presently being studied in animal models and in human.
The increased sequencing of pathogen genomes and the subsequent availability of genome-scale functional datasets are expected to guide the experimental work necessary for target-based drug discovery. However, a major bottleneck in this has been the difficulty of capturing and integrating relevant information in an easily accessible format for identifying and prioritizing potential targets. The open-access resource TDRtargets.org facilitates drug target prioritization for major tropical disease pathogens such as the mycobacteria Mycobacterium leprae and Mycobacterium tuberculosis; the kinetoplastid protozoans Leishmania major, Trypanosoma brucei, and Trypanosoma cruzi; the apicomplexan protozoans Plasmodium falciparum, Plasmodium vivax, and Toxoplasma gondii; and the helminths Brugia malayi and Schistosoma mansoni.
Here we present strategies to prioritize pathogen proteins based on whether their properties meet criteria considered desirable in a drug target. These criteria are based upon both sequence-derived information (e.g., molecular mass) and functional data on expression, essentiality, phenotypes, metabolic pathways, assayability, and druggability. This approach also highlights the fact that data for many relevant criteria are lacking in less-studied pathogens (e.g., helminths), and we demonstrate how this can be partially overcome by mapping data from homologous genes in well-studied organisms. We also show how individual users can easily upload external datasets and integrate them with existing data in TDRtargets.org to generate highly customized ranked lists of potential targets.
Using the datasets and the tools available in TDRtargets.org, we have generated illustrative lists of potential drug targets in seven tropical disease pathogens. While these lists are broadly consistent with the research community's current interest in certain specific proteins, and suggest novel target candidates that may merit further study, the lists can easily be modified in a user-specific manner, either by adjusting the weights for chosen criteria or by changing the criteria that are included.
In cell-based drug development, researchers attempt to create drugs that kill a pathogen without necessarily understanding the details of how the drugs work. In contrast, target-based drug development entails the search for compounds that act on a specific intracellular target—often a protein known or suspected to be required for survival of the pathogen. The latter approach to drug development has been facilitated greatly by the sequencing of many pathogen genomes and the incorporation of genome data into user-friendly databases. The present paper shows how the database TDRtargets.org can identify proteins that might be considered good drug targets for diseases such as African sleeping sickness, Chagas disease, parasitic worm infections, tuberculosis, and malaria. These proteins may score highly in searches of the database because they are dissimilar to human proteins, are structurally similar to other “druggable” proteins, have functions that are easy to measure, and/or fulfill other criteria. Researchers can use the lists of high-scoring proteins as a basis for deciding which potential drug targets to pursue experimentally.
The detoxification enzyme glyoxalase I from L. major has been crystallized. Preliminary molecular-replacement calculations indicate the presence of three glyoxalase I dimers in the asymmetric unit.
Glyoxalase I (GLO1) is a putative drug target for trypanosomatids, which are pathogenic protozoa that include the causative agents of leishmaniasis. Significant sequence and functional differences between Leishmania major and human GLO1 suggest that it may make a suitable template for rational inhibitor design. L. major GLO1 was crystallized in two forms: the first is extremely disordered and does not diffract, while the second, an orthorhombic form, produces diffraction to 2.0 Å. Molecular-replacement calculations indicate that there are three GLO1 dimers in the asymmetric unit, which take up a helical arrangement with their molecular dyads arranged approximately perpendicular to the c axis. Further analysis of these data are under way.
glyoxalase I; leishmaniasis
Oligopeptidase B (OPB) is a serine peptidase with dibasic substrate specificity. It is found in bacteria, plants, and trypanosomatid pathogens, where it has been identified as a virulence factor and potential drug target. In this study we expressed active recombinant Leishmania major OPB and provide the first structure of an oligopeptidase B at high resolution. The crystallographic study reveals that OPB comprises two domains, a catalytic and a propeller domain, linked together by a hinge region. The structure has been determined in complex with the oligopeptide, protease-inhibitor antipain, giving detailed information on the enzyme active site and extended substrate binding pockets. It shows that Glu-621 plays a critical role in the S1 binding pocket and, along with Phe-603, is largely responsible for the enzyme substrate specificity in P1. In the S2 binding pocket, Tyr-499 was shown to be important for substrate stability. The structure also allowed an investigation into the function of residues highlighted in other studies including Glu-623, which was predicted to be involved in the S1 binding pocket but is found forming an inter-domain hydrogen bond. Additional important salt bridges/hydrogen bonds between the two domains were observed, highlighting the significance of the domain interface in OPB. This work provides a foundation for the study of the role of OPBs as virulence factors in trypanosomatids. It could facilitate the development of specific OPB inhibitors with therapeutic potential by exploiting its unique substrate recognition properties as well as providing a model for OPBs in general.
Enzyme Mechanisms; Parasitology; Peptidases; Protein Structure; Serine Protease; Leishmania major; Oligopeptidase B