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1.  Revisiting the Central Metabolism of the Bloodstream Forms of Trypanosoma brucei: Production of Acetate in the Mitochondrion Is Essential for Parasite Viability 
The bloodstream forms of Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of sleeping sickness, rely solely on glycolysis for ATP production. It is generally accepted that pyruvate is the major end-product excreted from glucose metabolism by the proliferative long-slender bloodstream forms of the parasite, with virtually no production of succinate and acetate, the main end-products excreted from glycolysis by all the other trypanosomatid adaptative forms, including the procyclic insect form of T. brucei.
Methodology/Principal Findings
A comparative NMR analysis showed that the bloodstream long-slender and procyclic trypanosomes excreted equivalent amounts of acetate and succinate from glucose metabolism. Key enzymes of acetate production from glucose-derived pyruvate and threonine are expressed in the mitochondrion of the long-slender forms, which produces 1.4-times more acetate from glucose than from threonine in the presence of an equal amount of both carbon sources. By using a combination of reverse genetics and NMR analyses, we showed that mitochondrial production of acetate is essential for the long-slender forms, since blocking of acetate biosynthesis from both carbon sources induces cell death. This was confirmed in the absence of threonine by the lethal phenotype of RNAi-mediated depletion of the pyruvate dehydrogenase, which is involved in glucose-derived acetate production. In addition, we showed that de novo fatty acid biosynthesis from acetate is essential for this parasite, as demonstrated by a lethal phenotype and metabolic analyses of RNAi-mediated depletion of acetyl-CoA synthetase, catalyzing the first cytosolic step of this pathway.
Acetate produced in the mitochondrion from glucose and threonine is synthetically essential for the long-slender mammalian forms of T. brucei to feed the essential fatty acid biosynthesis through the “acetate shuttle” that was recently described in the procyclic insect form of the parasite. Consequently, key enzymatic steps of this pathway, particularly acetyl-CoA synthetase, constitute new attractive drug targets against trypanosomiasis.
Author Summary
Many protists, including parasitic helminthes, trichomonads and trypanosomatids, produce acetate in their mitochondrion or mitochondrion-like organelle, which is excreted as a main metabolic end-product of their energy metabolism. We have recently demonstrated that mitochondrial production of acetate is essential for fatty acid biosynthesis and ATP production in the procyclic insect form of T. brucei. However, acetate metabolism has not been investigated in the long-slender bloodstream forms of the parasite, the proliferative forms responsible for the sleeping sickness. In contrast to the current view, we showed that the bloodstream forms produce almost as much acetate from glucose than the procyclic parasites. Acetate production from glucose and threonine is synthetically essential for growth and de novo synthesis of fatty acids of the bloodstream trypanosomes. These data highlight that the central metabolism of the bloodstream forms contains unexpected essential pathways, although minor in terms of metabolic flux, which could be targeted for the development of trypanocidal drugs.
PMCID: PMC3868518  PMID: 24367711
2.  Novel sterol metabolic network of Trypanosoma brucei procyclic and bloodstream forms 
The Biochemical journal  2012;443(1):267-277.
Trypanosoma brucei is the protozoan parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis, a neglected disease of people and animals. Co-metabolite analysis, labelling studies using [methyl-2H3]-methionine and substrate/product specificities of the cloned 24-SMT (sterol C24-methyltransferase) and 14-SDM (sterol C14-demethylase) from T. brucei afforded an uncommon sterol metabolic network that proceeds from lanosterol and 31-norlanosterol to ETO [ergosta-5,7,25(27)-trien-3β-ol], 24-DTO [dimethyl ergosta-5,7,25(27)-trienol] and ergosterol [ergosta-5,7,22(23)-trienol]. To assess the possible carbon sources of ergosterol biosynthesis, specifically 13C-labelled specimens of lanosterol, acetate, leucine and glucose were administered to T. brucei and the 13C distributions found were in accord with the operation of the acetate–mevalonate pathway, with leucine as an alternative precursor, to ergostenols in either the insect or bloodstream form. In searching for metabolic signatures of procyclic cells, we observed that the 13C-labelling treatments induce fluctuations between the acetyl-CoA (mitochondrial) and sterol (cytosolic) synthetic pathways detected by the progressive increase in 13C-ergosterol production (control <[2-13C]leucine<[2-13C]acetate<[1-13C]glucose) and corresponding depletion of cholesta-5,7,24-trienol. We conclude that anabolic fluxes originating in mitochondrial metabolism constitute a flexible part of sterol synthesis that is further fluctuated in the cytosol, yielding distinct sterol profiles in relation to cell demands on growth.
PMCID: PMC3491665  PMID: 22176028
[1-13C]glucose; ergosterol biosynthesis; sterol C24-methyltransferase; sterol C14-demethylase; Trypanosoma brucei; trypanosome
3.  Trypanosoma brucei: Reduction of GPI-phospholipase C Protein During Differentiation is Dependent on Replication of Newly-Transformed Cells 
Experimental parasitology  2010;125(3):222-229.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei lives in the bloodstream of vertebrates or in a tsetse fly. Expression of a GPI-phospholipase C polypeptide (GPI-PLCp) in the parasite is restricted to the bloodstream form. Events controlling the amount of GPI-PLCp expressed during differentiation are not completely understood. Our metabolic “pulse-chase” analysis reveals that GPI-PLCp is stable in bloodstream form. However, during differentiation of bloodstream to insect stage (procyclic) T. brucei, translation GPI-PLC mRNA ceases within 8 h of initiating transformation. GPI-PLCp is not lost precipitously from newly-transformed procyclic trypanosomes. Nascent procyclics contain 400-fold more GPI-PLCp than established insect stage T. brucei. Reduction of GPI-PLCp in early-stage procyclics is linked to parasite replication. Sixteen cell divisions are required to reduce the amount of GPI-PLCp in newly-differentiated procyclics to levels present in the established procyclic. GPI-PLCp is retained in strains of T. brucei that fail to replicate after differentiation of the bloodstream to the procyclic form. Thus, at least two factors control levels of GPI-PLCp during differentiation of bloodstream T. brucei; (i) repression of GPI-PLC mRNA translation, and (ii) sustained replication of newly-transformed procyclic T. brucei. These studies illustrate the importance of repeated cell divisions in controlling the steady-state amount of GPI-PLCp during differentiation of the African trypanosome.
PMCID: PMC2866772  PMID: 20109448
4.  A Function for a Specific Zinc Metalloprotease of African Trypanosomes 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(10):e150.
The Trypanosoma brucei genome encodes three groups of zinc metalloproteases, each of which contains ∼30% amino acid identity with the major surface protease (MSP, also called GP63) of Leishmania. One of these proteases, TbMSP-B, is encoded by four nearly identical, tandem genes transcribed in both bloodstream and procyclic trypanosomes. Earlier work showed that RNA interference against TbMSP-B prevents release of a recombinant variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) from procyclic trypanosomes. Here, we used gene deletions to show that TbMSP-B and a phospholipase C (GPI-PLC) act in concert to remove native VSG during differentiation of bloodstream trypanosomes to procyclic form. When the four tandem TbMSP-B genes were deleted from both chromosomal alleles, bloodstream B −/− trypanosomes could still differentiate to procyclic form, but VSG was removed more slowly and in a non-truncated form compared to differentiation of wild-type organisms. Similarly, when both alleles of the single-copy GPI-PLC gene were deleted, bloodstream PLC −/− cells could still differentiate. However, when all the genes for both TbMSP-B and GPI-PLC were deleted from the diploid genome, the bloodstream B −/− PLC −/− trypanosomes did not proliferate in the differentiation medium, and 60% of the VSG remained on the cell surface. Inhibitors of cysteine proteases did not affect this result. These findings demonstrate that removal of 60% of the VSG during differentiation from bloodstream to procyclic form is due to the synergistic activities of GPI-PLC and TbMSP-B.
Author Summary
African trypanosomes cause sleeping sickness, a fatal disease of humans and livestock in Africa. During their life cycle, these protozoan parasites cycle between the bloodstream of mammals and tsetse flies. Their two main developmental stages are the bloodstream form and the procyclic form in the tsetse fly. Bloodstream trypanosomes thwart their host's immune response by periodically switching their major surface protein, the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG). When bloodstream trypanosomes are ingested by a tsetse fly, they must quickly shed the VSG and replace it with an unrelated invariant protein more suited to their survival as procyclic organisms in the fly midgut. Here, we examine the mechanisms used by trypanosomes to remove the VSG during their differentiation from bloodstream to procyclic form in culture. We deleted the genes for one of the trypanosome's protease enzymes from the trypanosome genome and found that bloodstream trypanosomes could still differentiate to the procyclic form, but VSG removal was diminished. Deleting the genes for a phospholipase enzyme had a similar effect—they could still differentiate but VSG removal was impaired. When the genes for both the protease and the phospholipase were deleted, bloodstream trypanosomes could not differentiate to the procyclic form, they retained about 60% of the VSG on their surface, and they died in the differentiation medium. These results highlight the synergistic roles of these two enzymes in the differentiation process.
PMCID: PMC2034397  PMID: 17953481
5.  Downregulation of Mitochondrial Porin Inhibits Cell Growth and Alters Respiratory Phenotype in Trypanosoma brucei▿ † 
Eukaryotic Cell  2009;8(9):1418-1428.
Porin is the most abundant outer membrane (OM) protein of mitochondria. It forms the aqueous channel on the mitochondrial OM and mediates major metabolite flux between mitochondria and cytosol. Mitochondrial porin in Trypanosoma brucei, a unicellular parasitic protozoan and the causative agent of African trypanosomiasis, possesses a β-barrel structure similar to the bacterial OM porin OmpA. T. brucei porin (TbPorin) is present as a monomer as well as an oligomer on the mitochondrial OM, and its expression is developmentally regulated. In spite of its distinct structure, the TbPorin function is similar to those of other eukaryotic porins. TbPorin RNA interference (RNAi) reduced cell growth in both procyclic and bloodstream forms. The depletion of TbPorin decreased ATP production by inhibiting metabolite flux through the OM. Additionally, the level of trypanosome alternative oxidase (TAO) decreased, whereas the levels of cytochrome-dependent respiratory complexes III and IV increased in TbPorin-depleted mitochondria. Furthermore, the depletion of TbPorin reduced cellular respiration via TAO, which is not coupled with oxidative phosphorylation, but increased the capacity for cyanide-sensitive respiration. Together, these data reveal that TbPorin knockdown reduced the mitochondrial ATP level, which in turn increased the capacity of the cytochrome-dependent respiratory pathway (CP), in an attempt to compensate for the mitochondrial energy crisis. However, a simultaneous decrease in the substrate-level phosphorylation due to TbPorin RNAi caused growth inhibition in the procyclic form. We also found that the expressions of TAO and CP proteins are coordinately regulated in T. brucei according to mitochondrial energy demand.
PMCID: PMC2747824  PMID: 19617393
6.  Social Motility of African Trypanosomes Is a Property of a Distinct Life-Cycle Stage That Occurs Early in Tsetse Fly Transmission 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004493.
The protozoan pathogen Trypanosoma brucei is transmitted between mammals by tsetse flies. The first compartment colonised by trypanosomes after a blood meal is the fly midgut lumen. Trypanosomes present in the lumen—designated as early procyclic forms—express the stage-specific surface glycoproteins EP and GPEET procyclin. When the trypanosomes establish a mature infection and colonise the ectoperitrophic space, GPEET is down-regulated, and EP becomes the major surface protein of late procyclic forms. A few years ago, it was discovered that procyclic form trypanosomes exhibit social motility (SoMo) when inoculated on a semi-solid surface. We demonstrate that SoMo is a feature of early procyclic forms, and that late procyclic forms are invariably SoMo-negative. In addition, we show that, apart from GPEET, other markers are differentially expressed in these two life-cycle stages, both in culture and in tsetse flies, indicating that they have different biological properties and should be considered distinct stages of the life cycle. Differentially expressed genes include two closely related adenylate cyclases, both hexokinases and calflagins. These findings link the phenomenon of SoMo in vitro to the parasite forms found during the first 4–7 days of a midgut infection. We postulate that ordered group movement on plates reflects the migration of parasites from the midgut lumen into the ectoperitrophic space within the tsetse fly. Moreover, the process can be uncoupled from colonisation of the salivary glands. Although they are the major surface proteins of procyclic forms, EP and GPEET are not essential for SoMo, nor, as shown previously, are they required for near normal colonisation of the fly midgut.
Author Summary
African trypanosomes, single-celled parasites that cause human sleeping sickness and Nagana in animals, are transmitted by tsetse flies. Bloodstream form trypanosomes ingested by tsetse differentiate into procyclic forms in the midgut lumen of the insect. Successful transmission to a new mammalian host requires at least two migrations within the fly: one from the midgut lumen to the ectoperitrophic space, and a subsequent migration from the ectoperitrophic space to the salivary glands. Procyclic forms can exhibit social motility, a form of coordinated movement, on semi-solid surfaces. While social motility in bacteria is linked to virulence, the biological significance for trypanosomes is unknown. We demonstrate that social motility is a property of early procyclic forms, which are equivalent to the forms present during the first week of fly infection. In contrast, late procyclic forms characteristic for established infections are deficient for social motility. Our findings link social motility to a biological process, confirm that early and late procyclic forms are distinct life-cycle stages and imply that genes essential for social motility will be of key importance in fly transmission. We suggest that using the social motility assay as a surrogate for fly experiments should enable many more laboratories to examine this aspect of parasite transmission.
PMCID: PMC4214818  PMID: 25357194
7.  Effects of the green tea catechin (−)-epigallocatechin gallate on Trypanosoma brucei 
Graphical abstract
► EGCG inhibits TbACC activity in lysates. ► EGCG induces an increase in TbACC phosphorylation in lysates. ► EGCG inhibits growth of Trypanosoma brucei in culture with an EC50 of ∼30 μM. ► Intra-peritoneal administration of EGCG did not reduce virulence in mice.
The current pharmacopeia to treat the lethal human and animal diseases caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei remains limited. The parasite’s ability to undergo antigenic variation represents a considerable barrier to vaccine development, making the identification of new drug targets extremely important. Recent studies have demonstrated that fatty acid synthesis is important for growth and virulence of Trypanosoma brucei brucei, suggesting this pathway may have therapeutic potential. The first committed step of fatty acid synthesis is catalyzed by acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACC), which is a known target of (−)-epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), an active polyphenol compound found in green tea. EGCG exerts its effects on ACC through activation of AMP-dependent protein kinase, which phosphorylates and inhibits ACC. We found that EGCG inhibited TbACC activity with an EC50 of 37 μM and 55 μM for bloodstream form and procyclic form lysates, respectively. Treatment with 100 μM EGCG induced a 4.7- and 1.7- fold increase in TbACC phosphorylation in bloodstream form and procyclic lysates. EGCG also inhibited the growth of bloodstream and procyclic parasites in culture, with a 48 h EC50 of 33 μM and 27 μM, respectively, which is greater than the EGCG plasma levels typically achievable in humans through oral dosing. Daily intraperitoneal administration of EGCG did not reduce the virulence of an acute mouse model of T. b. brucei infection. These data suggest a reduced potential for EGCG to treat T. brucei infections, but suggest that EGCG may prove to be useful as a tool to probe ACC regulation.
PMCID: PMC3862400  PMID: 24533284
ACC, acetyl-CoA carboxylase; AMPK, AMP-activated protein kinase; BF, bloodstream form; DMSO, dimethyl sulfoxide; EGCG, (−)-epigallocatechin gallate; PF, procyclic form; RNAi, RNA interference; SA-HRP, streptavidin conjugated to horseradish peroxidase; Trypanosoma brucei; Epigallocatechin gallate; Acetyl-CoA carboxylase; Phosphorylation
8.  Systematic evaluation of objective functions for predicting intracellular fluxes in Escherichia coli 
The in vivo distribution of metabolic fluxes in Escherichia coli can be predicted from optimality principles At least two different sets of optimality principles govern the operation of the metabolic network under different environmental conditionsMetabolism during unlimited growth on glucose in batch culture is best described by the nonlinear maximization of ATP yield per unit of flux
Based on a long history of biochemical and lately genomic research, metabolic networks, in particular microbial ones, are among the best characterized cellular networks. Most components (genes, proteins and metabolites) and their interactions are known. This topological knowledge of the reaction stoichiometry allows to construct metabolic models up to the level of genome scale (Price et al, 2004). Experimentally, sophisticated 13C-tracer-based methodologies were developed that enable tracking of the intracellular flux traffic through the reaction network (Sauer, 2006). With the accumulation of such experimental flux data, the question arises why a particular distribution of flux within the network is realized and not one of many alternatives?
Here, we address the question whether the intracellular flux state can be predicted from optimality principles, with the underlying rational that evolution might have optimized metabolic operation toward particular objectives or combinations of multiple objectives. For this purpose, we performed a systematic and rigorous comparison between computational flux predictions and available experimental flux data (Emmerling et al, 2002; Perrenoud and Sauer, 2005; Nanchen et al, 2006) under six different environmental conditions for the model bacterium E. coli. For computational flux predictions, we used a constraint-based modeling approach that requires a stoichiometric model of metabolism (Stelling, 2004). More specifically, we employed flux balance analysis (FBA) where objective functions are defined that represent optimality principles of network operation (Price et al, 2004). This approach has been applied successfully to predict gene deletion lethality (Edwards and Palsson, 2000a, bEdwards and Palsson, 2000a, b; Forster et al, 2003; Kuepfer et al, 2005), network capacities and feasible network states (Edwards 2001, Ibarra 2002), but in only few cases to predict the intracellular flux state (Beard et al, 2002; Holzhütter, 2004).
While different objective functions were proposed for different biological systems (Holzhütter, 2004; Price et al, 2004; Knorr et al, 2006), by far the most common assumption is that microbial cells maximize their growth. To address this issue more generally, we evaluated the accuracy of FBA-based flux predictions for 11 linear and nonlinear objective functions that were combined with eight adjustable constraints. For this purpose, we constructed a highly interconnected stoichiometric network model with 98 reactions and 60 metabolites of E. coli central carbon metabolism. Based on mathematical analyses, the overall model could be reduced to a set of 10 reactions that summarize the actual systemic degree of freedom.
As a quantitative measure of how accurate the experimental data are predicted, we defined predictive fidelity as a single value to quantify the overall deviation between in silico and in vivo fluxes. By comparing all in silico predictions to 13C-based in vivo fluxes, we show that prediction of intracellular steady-state fluxes from network stoichiometry alone is, within limits, possible. An unexpected key result is that no further assumptions on network operation in the form of additional and potentially artificial constraints are necessary, provided the appropriate objective function is chosen for a given condition.
While no single objective was able to describe the flux states under all six conditions, we identified two sets of objectives for biologically meaningful predictions without the need for further constraints. For unlimited growth on glucose in aerobic or nitrate-respiring batch cultures, we find that the most accurate and robust results are obtained with the nonlinear maximization of ATP yield per flux unit (Figure 1). Under nutrient scarcity in glucose- or ammonium-limited continuous cultures, in contrast, linear maximization of the overall ATP or biomass yields achieved the highest predictive accuracy.
Since these identified optimality principles describe the system behavior without preconditioning of the network through further constraints, they reflect, to some extent, the evolutionary selection of metabolic network regulation that realizes the various flux states. For conditions of nutrient scarcity, the maximization of energy or biomass yield objective is consistent with the generally observed physiology (Russell and Cook, 1995). The meaning of the maximization of ATP yield per flux unit objective for unlimited growth, however, is less obvious. Generally, it selects for small networks with yet high, albeit suboptimal ATP formation, which has three biological consequences. Firstly, resources are economically allocated since expenditures for enzyme synthesis are, on average, greater for longer pathways. Secondly, suboptimal ATP yields dissipate more energy and thus enable higher catabolic rates. Thirdly, at a constant catabolic rate, a small network results in shorter residence times of substrate molecules until they generate ATP. The relative contribution of these consequences to the evolution of network regulation is unclear, but simultaneous optimization for ATP yield and catabolic rate under this optimality principle identifies a trade-off between the contradicting objectives of maximum overall ATP yield and maximum rate of ATP formation (Pfeiffer et al, 2001).
To which extent can optimality principles describe the operation of metabolic networks? By explicitly considering experimental errors and in silico alternate optima in flux balance analysis, we systematically evaluate the capacity of 11 objective functions combined with eight adjustable constraints to predict 13C-determined in vivo fluxes in Escherichia coli under six environmental conditions. While no single objective describes the flux states under all conditions, we identified two sets of objectives for biologically meaningful predictions without the need for further, potentially artificial constraints. Unlimited growth on glucose in oxygen or nitrate respiring batch cultures is best described by nonlinear maximization of the ATP yield per flux unit. Under nutrient scarcity in continuous cultures, in contrast, linear maximization of the overall ATP or biomass yields achieved the highest predictive accuracy. Since these particular objectives predict the system behavior without preconditioning of the network structure, the identified optimality principles reflect, to some extent, the evolutionary selection of metabolic network regulation that realizes the various flux states.
PMCID: PMC1949037  PMID: 17625511
13C-flux; evolution; flux balance analysis; metabolic network; network optimality
9.  Dynamic Modelling under Uncertainty: The Case of Trypanosoma brucei Energy Metabolism 
PLoS Computational Biology  2012;8(1):e1002352.
Kinetic models of metabolism require detailed knowledge of kinetic parameters. However, due to measurement errors or lack of data this knowledge is often uncertain. The model of glycolysis in the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei is a particularly well analysed example of a quantitative metabolic model, but so far it has been studied with a fixed set of parameters only. Here we evaluate the effect of parameter uncertainty. In order to define probability distributions for each parameter, information about the experimental sources and confidence intervals for all parameters were collected. We created a wiki-based website dedicated to the detailed documentation of this information: the SilicoTryp wiki ( Using information collected in the wiki, we then assigned probability distributions to all parameters of the model. This allowed us to sample sets of alternative models, accurately representing our degree of uncertainty. Some properties of the model, such as the repartition of the glycolytic flux between the glycerol and pyruvate producing branches, are robust to these uncertainties. However, our analysis also allowed us to identify fragilities of the model leading to the accumulation of 3-phosphoglycerate and/or pyruvate. The analysis of the control coefficients revealed the importance of taking into account the uncertainties about the parameters, as the ranking of the reactions can be greatly affected. This work will now form the basis for a comprehensive Bayesian analysis and extension of the model considering alternative topologies.
Author Summary
An increasing number of mathematical models are being built and analysed in order to obtain a better understanding of specific biological systems. These quantitative models contain parameters that need to be measured or estimated. Because of experimental errors or lack of data, our knowledge about these parameters is uncertain. Our work explores the effect of including these uncertainties in model analysis. Therefore, we studied a particularly well curated model of the energy metabolism of the parasite Trypanosoma brucei, responsible for African sleeping sickness. We first collected all the information we could find about how the model parameters were defined on a website, the SilicoTryp wiki (http:/// From this information, we were able to quantify our uncertainty about each parameter, thus allowing us to analyse the model while explicitly taking these uncertainties into account. We found that, even though the model was well-defined and most of its parameters were experimentally measured, taking into account the remaining uncertainty allows us to gain more insight into model behavior. We were able to identify previously unrecognised fragilities of the model, leading to new hypotheses amenable to experimental testing.
PMCID: PMC3269904  PMID: 22379410
10.  Comparative SILAC Proteomic Analysis of Trypanosoma brucei Bloodstream and Procyclic Lifecycle Stages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36619.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei has a complex digenetic lifecycle between a mammalian host and an insect vector, and adaption of its proteome between lifecycle stages is essential to its survival and virulence. We have optimized a procedure for growing Trypanosoma brucei procyclic form cells in conditions suitable for stable isotope labeling by amino acids in culture (SILAC) and report a comparative proteomic analysis of cultured procyclic form and bloodstream form T. brucei cells. In total we were able to identify 3959 proteins and quantify SILAC ratios for 3553 proteins with a false discovery rate of 0.01. A large number of proteins (10.6%) are differentially regulated by more the 5-fold between lifecycle stages, including those involved in the parasite surface coat, and in mitochondrial and glycosomal energy metabolism. Our proteomic data is broadly in agreement with transcriptomic studies, but with significantly larger fold changes observed at the protein level than at the mRNA level.
PMCID: PMC3344917  PMID: 22574199
11.  Large-scale 13C-flux analysis reveals distinct transcriptional control of respiratory and fermentative metabolism in Escherichia coli 
The authors analyze the role transcription plays in regulating bacterial metabolic flux. Of 91 transcriptional regulators studied, 2/3 affect absolute fluxes, but only a small number of regulators control the partitioning of flux between different metabolic pathways.
In contrast to the canonical respiro-fermentative glucose metabolism, fully respiratory galactose metabolism depends exclusively on the PEP-glyoxylate cycle.Of 91 transcription factors, 2/3 affect absolute fluxes, but only one controls the distribution of fluxes on galactose and nine on glucose.Transcriptional control of hexose flux distributions is confined to the acetyl-CoA branch point.The PEP-glyoxylate cycle is controlled by cAMP-Crp in a hexose uptake rate-dependent manner.
Focusing on central carbon metabolism of Escherichia coli, we aim here to systematically identify transcriptional regulators that control the distribution of metabolic fluxes during aerobic growth on hexoses. To assess the condition dependence of transcriptional control of flux, we selected glucose and galactose as two substrates that are highly similar, yet lead to distinct growth rates (Soupene et al, 2003), overall metabolic rates (De Anda et al, 2006; Samir El et al, 2009) and levels of catabolite repression (Hogema et al, 1998; Bettenbrock et al, 2007).
Experimentally determined fluxes (Fischer and Sauer, 2003a) during growth on glucose and galactose reveal two distinct metabolic states. On glucose, high metabolic rates lead to high overflow metabolism and respiratory fluxes through the TCA cycle. On galactose, in contrast, metabolism was much slower without overflow metabolism and respiratory fluxes exclusively through the PEP-glyoxylate cycle (Fischer and Sauer, 2003b).
To determine which transcriptional events controlled these two distinct metabolic states, we determined intracellular fluxes in 91 transcription factor mutants. These genetic perturbations primarily affected absolute fluxes but not the distribution of fluxes. The distribution of flux between glycolysis and pentose–phosphate pathway in upper metabolism, e.g., remained constant in all mutants under all conditions. Transcriptional control of the flux distribution was exclusively seen at the acetyl-CoA branch point. On glucose, nine transcription factors controlled the distribution of fluxes at this branch point, five of which (ArcA, IHFA, IHFB, PdhR, Fur) did so presumably directly through their known targets in TCA cycle and/or respiration. Without known targets in the relevant pathways, the remaining four transcription factors (GlpR, QseB, HdfR, GlcC) may act either indirectly or directly through unknown targets. On galactose, transcriptional control focused exclusively on the PEP-glyoxylate cycle. While deletion of six transcription factors (Cra, Crp, IHFA, IHFB, Mlc, NagC) abolished or reduced the PEP-glyoxylate cycle flux, we demonstrate by substrate-limited chemostat experiments, derepression of galactose uptake and show by metabolomics that five of these transcription factors act indirectly through increased cAMP concentrations that allosterically activate Crp, the only direct transcription factors that controls the PEP-glyoxylate cycle (Nanchen et al, 2008).
Overall, our absolute flux data demonstrate that control of flux splitting during growth on hexoses was confined to the acetyl-CoA branch point in E. coli. Of the 36 transcription factors known to target genes in pathways that diverge from the acetyl-CoA branch point, only one transcription factor on galactose and five plus potentially four others on glucose showed altered flux splitting. The primary focus of steady state transcriptional control on the acetyl-CoA branch point, and thus the metabolic decision between the energetically efficient respiration and the less efficient but more rapid fermentation, was recently also demonstrated with only relative flux data for Saccharomyces cerevisiae (Fendt et al, 2010).
In contrast to glucose-grown Bacillus subtilis (Fischer et al, 2005), for batch glucose-grown E. coli, none of the investigated transcription factor mutants exhibited improved biomass productivity. However, the mutants Cra, IHF A, IHF B and NagC with increased uptake rates grew much faster at almost unaltered biomass yields. As the removal of the glucose PTS-based repression with a Crr mutant also resulted in increased galactose uptake, we provide evidence that E. coli actively represses its galactose uptake at the expense of otherwise possible rapid growth.
Despite our increasing topological knowledge on regulation networks in model bacteria, it is largely unknown which of the many co-occurring regulatory events actually control metabolic function and the distribution of intracellular fluxes. Here, we unravel condition-dependent transcriptional control of Escherichia coli metabolism by large-scale 13C-flux analysis in 91 transcriptional regulator mutants on glucose and galactose. In contrast to the canonical respiro-fermentative glucose metabolism, fully respiratory galactose metabolism depends exclusively on the phosphoenol-pyruvate (PEP)-glyoxylate cycle. While 2/3 of the regulators directly or indirectly affected absolute flux rates, the partitioning between different pathways remained largely stable with transcriptional control focusing primarily on the acetyl-CoA branch point. Flux distribution control was achieved by nine transcription factors on glucose, including ArcA, Fur, PdhR, IHF A and IHF B, but was exclusively mediated by the cAMP-dependent Crp regulation of the PEP-glyoxylate cycle flux on galactose. Five further transcription factors affected this flux only indirectly through cAMP and Crp by increasing the galactose uptake rate. Thus, E. coli actively limits its galactose catabolism at the expense of otherwise possible faster growth.
PMCID: PMC3094070  PMID: 21451587
central metabolism; fermentative growth; gene regulatory networks; respiratory growth; transcriptional regulation
12.  Extensive stage-regulation of translation revealed by ribosome profiling of Trypanosoma brucei 
BMC Genomics  2014;15(1):911.
Trypanosoma brucei subspecies infect humans and animals in sub-Saharan Africa. This early diverging eukaryote shows many novel features in basic biological processes, including the use of polycistronic transcription to generate all protein-coding mRNAs. Therefore we hypothesized that translational control provides a means to tune gene expression during parasite development in mammalian and fly hosts.
We used ribosome profiling to examine genome-wide protein synthesis in animal-derived slender bloodstream forms and cultured procyclic (insect midgut) forms. About one-third of all CDSs showed statistically significant regulation of protein production between the two stages. Of these, more than two-thirds showed a change in translation efficiency, but few appeared to be controlled by this alone. Ribosomal proteins were translated poorly, especially in animal-derived parasites. A disproportionate number of metabolic enzymes were up-regulated at the mRNA level in procyclic forms, as were variant surface glycoproteins in bloodstream forms. Comparison with cultured bloodstream forms from another strain revealed stage-specific changes in gene expression that transcend strain and growth conditions. Genes with upstream ORFs had lower mean translation efficiency, but no evidence was found for involvement of uORFs in stage-regulation.
Ribosome profiling revealed that differences in the production of specific proteins in T. brucei bloodstream and procyclic forms are more extensive than predicted by analysis of mRNA abundance. While in vivo and in vitro derived bloodstream forms from different strains are more similar to one another than to procyclic forms, they showed many differences at both the mRNA and protein production level.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1471-2164-15-911) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
PMCID: PMC4210626  PMID: 25331479
Ribosomal proteins; Ribosome profiling; Stage-regulation; Trypanosome; Translation
13.  Protein tyrosine phosphatase TbPTP1: a molecular switch controlling life cycle differentiation in trypanosomes 
The Journal of Cell Biology  2006;175(2):293-303.
Differentiation in African trypanosomes (Trypanosoma brucei) entails passage between a mammalian host, where parasites exist as a proliferative slender form or a G0-arrested stumpy form, and the tsetse fly. Stumpy forms arise at the peak of each parasitaemia and are committed to differentiation to procyclic forms that inhabit the tsetse midgut. We have identified a protein tyrosine phosphatase (TbPTP1) that inhibits trypanosome differentiation. Consistent with a tyrosine phosphatase, recombinant TbPTP1 exhibits the anticipated substrate and inhibitor profile, and its activity is impaired by reversible oxidation. TbPTP1 inactivation in monomorphic bloodstream trypanosomes by RNA interference or pharmacological inhibition triggers spontaneous differentiation to procyclic forms in a subset of committed cells. Consistent with this observation, homogeneous populations of stumpy forms synchronously differentiate to procyclic forms when tyrosine phosphatase activity is inhibited. Our data invoke a new model for trypanosome development in which differentiation to procyclic forms is prevented in the bloodstream by tyrosine dephosphorylation. It may be possible to use PTP1B inhibitors to block trypanosomatid transmission.
PMCID: PMC2064570  PMID: 17043136
14.  Futile import of tRNAs and proteins into the mitochondrion of Trypanosoma brucei evansi 
Trypanosoma brucei brucei has two distinct developmental stages, the procyclic stage in the insect and the bloodstream stage in the mammalian host. The significance of each developmental stage is punctuated by specific changes in metabolism. In the insect, T. b. brucei is strictly dependent on mitochondrial function and thus respiration to generate the bulk of its ATP, whereas in the mammalian host it relies heavily on glycolysis. These observations have raised questions about the importance of mitochondrial function in the bloodstream. Peculiarly, akinetoplastic strains of Trypanosoma brucei evansi that lack mitochondrial DNA do exist in the wild and are developmentally locked in the glycolysis-dependent bloodstream stage. Using RNAi we show that two mitochondrion-imported proteins, mitochondrial RNA polymerase and guide RNA associated protein 1, are still imported into the nucleic acids-lacking organelle of T. b. evansi, making the need for these proteins futile. We also show that, like in the T. b. brucei procyclic stage, the mitochondria of both bloodstream stage of T. b. brucei and T. b. evansi import various tRNAs, including those that undergo thiolation. However, we were unable to detect mitochondrial thiolation in the akinetoplastic organelle. Taken together, these data suggest a lack of connection between nuclear and mitochondrial communication in strains of T. b. evansi that lost mitochondrial genome and that do not required an insect vector for survival.
PMCID: PMC3042029  PMID: 21195112
Trypanosoma; tRNA; protein import; mitochondrion; kinetoplast
15.  Post-Transcriptional Regulation of the Trypanosome Heat Shock Response by a Zinc Finger Protein 
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(4):e1003286.
In most organisms, the heat-shock response involves increased heat-shock gene transcription. In Kinetoplastid protists, however, virtually all control of gene expression is post-transcriptional. Correspondingly, Trypanosoma brucei heat-shock protein 70 (HSP70) synthesis after heat shock depends on regulation of HSP70 mRNA turnover. We here show that the T. brucei CCCH zinc finger protein ZC3H11 is a post-transcriptional regulator of trypanosome chaperone mRNAs. ZC3H11 is essential in bloodstream-form trypanosomes and for recovery of insect-form trypanosomes from heat shock. ZC3H11 binds to mRNAs encoding heat-shock protein homologues, with clear specificity for the subset of trypanosome chaperones that is required for protein refolding. In procyclic forms, ZC3H11 was required for stabilisation of target chaperone-encoding mRNAs after heat shock, and the HSP70 mRNA was also decreased upon ZC3H11 depletion in bloodstream forms. Many mRNAs bound to ZC3H11 have a consensus AUU repeat motif in the 3′-untranslated region. ZC3H11 bound preferentially to AUU repeats in vitro, and ZC3H11 regulation of HSP70 mRNA in bloodstream forms depended on its AUU repeat region. Tethering of ZC3H11 to a reporter mRNA increased reporter expression, showing that it is capable of actively stabilizing an mRNA. These results show that expression of trypanosome heat-shock genes is controlled by a specific RNA-protein interaction. They also show that heat-shock-induced chaperone expression in procyclic trypanosome enhances parasite survival at elevated temperatures.
Author Summary
When organisms are placed at a temperature that is higher than normal, their proteins start to unfold. The organisms protect themselves by increasing the synthesis of “heat-shock” proteins which can re-fold other proteins when the temperature returns to normal. In trypanosomes, the degradation of mRNAs that encode heat-shock proteins is slowed down at elevated temperatures. Trypanosoma brucei multiplies as “bloodstream forms” in the blood of mammals, at temperatures between 37–39°C; and as “procyclic forms” in Tsetse flies, which are usually at 20–37°C but can survive at 41°C. In this paper we show that in Trypanosoma brucei, a protein called ZC3H11 can bind to many heat-shock-protein mRNAs. ZC3H11 is essential in bloodstream-form trypanosomes and for recovery of procyclic-form trypanosomes after heat shock. ZC3H11 binds to an AUU repeat motif which is found in parts of the target mRNAs that do not encode protein. Several heat-shock-protein RNAs were decreased when we decreased the amount of ZC3H11 in bloodstream-form trypanosomes. These and other results show that expression of the specific subset of trypanosome heat-shock proteins is controlled by the interaction of ZC3H11 with the relevant mRNAs. They also show that the heat-shock response could enhance survival of trypanosomes in over-heated Tsetse flies.
PMCID: PMC3616968  PMID: 23592996
16.  Evidence that low endocytic activity is not directly responsible for human serum resistance in the insect form of African trypanosomes 
BMC Research Notes  2010;3:63.
In Trypanosoma brucei, the African trypanosome, endocytosis is developmentally regulated and substantially more active in all known mammalian infective stages. In both mammalian and insect stages endocytic activity is likely required for nutrient acquisition, but in bloodstream forms increased endocytosis is involved in recycling the variant surface glycoprotein and removing host immune factors from the surface. However, a rationale for low endocytic activity in insect stages has not been explored. Here we asked if endocytic down-regulation in the procyclic form was associated with resistance to innate trypanolytic immune factors in the blood meal or tsetse fly midgut.
Using a well-characterized procyclic parasite with augmented endocytic flux mediated via TbRab5A overexpression, we found that insect stage parasites were able to grow both in the presence of trypanosome lytic factor (TLF) provided in human serum, and also in tsetse flies. Additionally, by placing blood stage parasites in restricted glucose medium, we observed that enlargement of the flagellar pocket, a key morphology associated with defective endocytosis, manifests in parallel with loss of cellular ATP levels.
These observations suggest that a high rate of endocytosis per se is insufficient to render insect form parasites sensitive to TLF or tsetse-derived trypanocidal factors. However, the data do suggest that endocytosis is energetically burdensome, as endocytic activity is rapidly compromised on energy depletion in bloodstream stages. Hence an important aspect of endocytic modulation in the nutrient-poor tsetse midgut is likely energetic conservation.
PMCID: PMC2848055  PMID: 20205710
17.  Handling Uncertainty in Dynamic Models: The Pentose Phosphate Pathway in Trypanosoma brucei 
PLoS Computational Biology  2013;9(12):e1003371.
Dynamic models of metabolism can be useful in identifying potential drug targets, especially in unicellular organisms. A model of glycolysis in the causative agent of human African trypanosomiasis, Trypanosoma brucei, has already shown the utility of this approach. Here we add the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) of T. brucei to the glycolytic model. The PPP is localized to both the cytosol and the glycosome and adding it to the glycolytic model without further adjustments leads to a draining of the essential bound-phosphate moiety within the glycosome. This phosphate “leak” must be resolved for the model to be a reasonable representation of parasite physiology. Two main types of theoretical solution to the problem could be identified: (i) including additional enzymatic reactions in the glycosome, or (ii) adding a mechanism to transfer bound phosphates between cytosol and glycosome. One example of the first type of solution would be the presence of a glycosomal ribokinase to regenerate ATP from ribose 5-phosphate and ADP. Experimental characterization of ribokinase in T. brucei showed that very low enzyme levels are sufficient for parasite survival, indicating that other mechanisms are required in controlling the phosphate leak. Examples of the second type would involve the presence of an ATP:ADP exchanger or recently described permeability pores in the glycosomal membrane, although the current absence of identified genes encoding such molecules impedes experimental testing by genetic manipulation. Confronted with this uncertainty, we present a modeling strategy that identifies robust predictions in the context of incomplete system characterization. We illustrate this strategy by exploring the mechanism underlying the essential function of one of the PPP enzymes, and validate it by confirming the model predictions experimentally.
Author Summary
Mathematical models have been valuable tools for investigating the complex behaviors of metabolism. Due to incomplete knowledge of biological systems, these models contain inevitable uncertainty. This uncertainty is present in the measured or estimated parameter values, but also in the structure of the metabolic network. In this paper we increase the coverage of a particularly well studied model of glucose metabolism in Trypanosoma brucei, a tropical parasite that causes African sleeping sickness, by extending it with an additional pathway in two compartments. During this modeling process we highlighted uncertainties in parameter values and network structure and used these to formulate new hypotheses which were subsequently tested experimentally. The models were improved with the experimentally derived data, but uncertainty remained concerning the exact topology of the system. These models allowed us to investigate the effects of the loss of one enzyme, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase. By taking uncertainty into account, the models demonstrated that the loss of this enzyme is lethal to the parasite by a mechanism different than that in other organisms. Our methodology shows how formally introducing uncertainty into model building provides robust model behavior that is independent of the network structure or parameter values.
PMCID: PMC3854711  PMID: 24339766
18.  Analysis of expressed sequence tags from the four main developmental stages of Trypanosoma congolense 
Trypanosoma congolense is one of the most economically important pathogens of livestock in Africa. Culture-derived parasites of each of the three main insect stages of the T. congolense life cycle, i.e., the procyclic, epimastigote and metacyclic stages, and bloodstream stage parasites isolated from infected mice, were used to construct stage-specific cDNA libraries and expressed sequence tags (ESTs or cDNA clones) in each library were sequenced. Thirteen EST clusters encoding different variant surface glycoproteins (VSGs) were detected in the metacyclic library and twenty-six VSG EST clusters were found in the bloodstream library, six of which are shared by the metacyclic library. Rare VSG ESTs are present in the epimastigote library, and none were detected in the procyclic library. ESTs encoding enzymes that catalyze oxidative phosphorylation and amino acid metabolism are about twice as abundant in the procyclic and epimastigote stages as in the metacyclic and bloodstream stages. In contrast, ESTs encoding enzymes involved in glycolysis, the citric acid cycle and nucleotide metabolism are about the same in all four developmental stages. Cysteine proteases, kinases and phosphatases are the most abundant enzyme groups represented by the ESTs. All four libraries contain T. congolense-specific expressed sequences not present in the T. brucei and T. cruzi genomes. Normalized cDNA libraries were constructed from the metacyclic and bloodstream stages, and found to be further enriched for T. congolense-specific ESTs. Given that cultured T. congolense offers an experimental advantage over other African trypanosome species, these ESTs provide a basis for further investigation of the molecular properties of these four developmental stages, especially the epimastigote and metacyclic stages for which it is difficult to obtain large quantities of organisms. The T. congolense EST databases are available at:
PMCID: PMC2741298  PMID: 19559733
metacyclic; epimastigote; procyclic; bloodstream; variant surface glycoprotein; cysteine protease; hypothetical proteins
19.  Bacterial adaptation through distributed sensing of metabolic fluxes 
We present a large-scale differential equation model of E. coli's central metabolism and its enzymatic, transcriptional, and posttranslational regulation. This model reproduces E. coli's known physiological behavior.We found that the interplay of known interactions in E. coli's central metabolism can indirectly recognize the presence of extracellular carbon sources through measuring intracellular metabolic flux patterns.We found that E. coli's system-level adaptations between glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources are realized on the molecular level by global feedback architectures that overarch the enzymatic and transcriptional regulatory layers.We found that the capability for closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously to changing carbon sources (not requiring upstream sensing and signaling).
Adaptations to fluctuating carbon source availability are of particular importance for bacteria. To understand these adaptations, it needs to be understood how a system's behavior emerges from the interactions between the characterized molecules (Kitano, 2002b). To attain such a system understanding of bacterial metabolic adaptations to carbon source availability, the coupling between the recognition and adjustment aspects and between the enzymatic and genetic regulatory layers must be understood. For many carbon sources, neither transmembrane sensors nor regulatory proteins with sensing function have been identified. Also, it remains unclear how multiple local regulations work together to accomplish a coherent adjustment on the systems level. In this paper, we show that (1) the interplay of the known interactions in E. coli's central metabolism is capable of recognizing carbon sources indirectly, and that (2) these molecular interactions can adjust E. coli's metabolic operation between growth on glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources, and that (3) this adaptation is governed by general principles.
We hypothesized that the system-level adaptations between growth on glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources are accomplished by a system-wide regulation architecture that emerges when the known enzymatic and transcriptional regulations become coupled through five transcription factor (TF)–metabolite interactions. To (1) assess whether such coupled molecular interactions can indeed work together to adapt metabolic operation, and if yes, (2) to understand this system-level adaptation in molecular-level detail, we constructed a large-scale differential equation model. The model topology comprises the Embden–Meyerhoff pathway, the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle, the glyoxylate (GLX) shunt, the anaplerotic reactions, the diversion of carbon flux to the GLX shunt, the uptake of glucose, the uptake and excretion of acetate, enzymatic regulation, transcriptional regulation by four TFs, and the regulation of these TFs' activities through TF–metabolite interactions. We translated the topology into differential equations by assigning the most appropriate rate law to each interaction. The kinetic model comprises 47 ordinary differential equations and 193 parameters. Parameter values were estimated through application of the ‘divide-and-conquer approach' (Kotte and Heinemann, 2009) on published experimental steady state-omics data sets.
Model simulations reproduce E. coli's known physiological behavior in an environment with fluctuating carbon source availability. But how does the in silico cell recognize acetate without a transmembrane sensor for extracellular acetate or a TF binding to intracellular acetate? Similarly, it is unclear whether the glucose sensing function of the phosphotransferase system is the exclusive mechanism to recognize glucose, or whether this sensing function is integrated into a larger sensing architecture. The model suggests that the recognition is performed indirectly through a mechanism we termed distributed sensing of intracellular metabolic fluxes. This mechanism uses two distinct motifs, which we termed pathway usage and flux direction, to establish defined correlations between metabolic fluxes and the levels of certain, here termed flux-signaling metabolites. The binding of these metabolites to TFs propagates the flux information to the transcriptional regulatory layer. A molecular sensor for intracellular metabolic flux is thus defined as a system of regulations and enzyme kinetics, comprising (1) either of the two motifs pathway usage or flux direction and (2) the binding of the thus established flux-signaling metabolites to TF(s).
As the in silico cell establishes and uses sensors for several intracellular metabolic fluxes, the overall sensing architecture infers the present carbon sources from a pattern of metabolic fluxes and is as such of a distributed nature. The core of this sensing architecture is formed not by transmembrane sensors but by four flux sensors, which establish flux-signaling metabolites according to the two proposed general motifs. These flux sensors use intracellular metabolic flux as a means to correlate the presence of extracellular carbon sources with the levels of intracellular metabolites. The recognition of glucose through the PTS transmembrane complex is embedded as one flux sensor in this distributed sensing architecture; the other three flux sensors function without the help of transmembrane complexes.
The in silico cell achieves the coupling between recognition and adjustment through its TFs, whose activities respond to the available carbon sources and at the same time regulate the expression of target genes. This combined recognition and adjustment, centered on the four TFs, closes four global feedback loops that overarch the metabolic and genetic layers as illustrated in Figure 6. The adaptation of the in silico cell arises from the global feedback loop-embedded, flux sensor-adjusted transcriptional regulation of the four TFs, with each TF performing one part of the overall adaptation. This adaptation incorporates both the influence of the metabolic on the genetic layer, achieved through TF–metabolite interactions, and of the genetic on the metabolic layer, achieved through the impact of adjusted enzyme levels on metabolic fluxes.
The existence of the global feedback architectures challenges the conventional view that top-level regulatory proteins recognize environmental conditions and adjust downstream metabolic operation. It suggests that the capability for closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously (not requiring upstream sensing and regulation) to changing carbon sources.
To conclude, the presented differential equation model of E. coli's central metabolism offers a consistent explanation of how a multitude of known molecular interactions fit into a coherent systems picture; the interactions work together like gear wheels that mesh with one another to adapt central metabolism between growth on the glycolytic substrate glucose and the gluconeogenic substrate acetate. The deduced general functional principles provide the missing link to understand system-level adaptations to carbon sources in molecular-level detail. The proposed principles fall under the umbrella of distributed flux sensing. The flux sensing mechanism entails the binding of TFs to flux-signaling metabolites, which are established through the motifs signaling of pathway usage and signaling of flux direction, and are embedded in global feedback loop architectures. These principles allow an autonomous adaptation of metabolic operation to growth in fluctuating environments.
The recognition of carbon sources and the regulatory adjustments to recognized changes are of particular importance for bacterial survival in fluctuating environments. Despite a thorough knowledge base of Escherichia coli's central metabolism and its regulation, fundamental aspects of the employed sensing and regulatory adjustment mechanisms remain unclear. In this paper, using a differential equation model that couples enzymatic and transcriptional regulation of E. coli's central metabolism, we show that the interplay of known interactions explains in molecular-level detail the system-wide adjustments of metabolic operation between glycolytic and gluconeogenic carbon sources. We show that these adaptations are enabled by an indirect recognition of carbon sources through a mechanism we termed distributed sensing of intracellular metabolic fluxes. This mechanism uses two general motifs to establish flux-signaling metabolites, whose bindings to transcription factors form flux sensors. As these sensors are embedded in global feedback loop architectures, closed-loop self-regulation can emerge within metabolism itself and therefore, metabolic operation may adapt itself autonomously (not requiring upstream sensing and signaling) to fluctuating carbon sources.
PMCID: PMC2858440  PMID: 20212527
computational model; metabolism; regulation; sensing; systems biology
20.  Characterization of the mitochondrial inner membrane protein translocator Tim17 from Trypanosoma brucei 
Mitochondrial protein translocation machinery in the kinetoplastid parasites, like Trypanosoma brucei, has been characterized poorly. In T. brucei genome data base, one homolog for a protein translocator of mitochondrial inner membrane (Tim) has been found, which is closely related to Tim17 from other species. The T. brucei Tim17 (TbTim17) has a molecular mass 16.2 kDa and it possesses four characteristic transmembrane domains. The protein is localized in the mitochondrial inner membrane. The level of TbTim17 protein is 6–7 fold higher in the procyclic form that has a fully active mitochondrion, than in the mammalian bloodstream form of T. brucei, where many of the mitochondrial activities are suppressed. Knockdown of TbTim17 expression by RNAi caused a cessation of cell growth in the procyclic form and reduced growth rate in the bloodstream form. Depletion of TbTim17 decreased mitochondrial membrane potential more in the procyclic than bloodstream form. However, TbTim17 knockdown reduced the expression level of several nuclear encoded mitochondrial proteins in both the forms. Furthermore, import of presequence containing nuclear encoded mitochondrial proteins was significantly reduced in TbTim17 depleted mitochondria of the procyclic as well as the bloodstream form, confirming that TbTim17 is critical for mitochondrial protein import in both developmental forms. Together, these show that TbTim17 is the translocator of nuclear encoded mitochondrial proteins and its expression is regulated according to mitochondrial activities in T. brucei.
PMCID: PMC2954128  PMID: 18325611
Trypanosoma brucei; Tim17; membrane potential; mitochondrial protein import; the bloodstream and procyclic forms
21.  Tsetse GmmSRPN10 Has Anti-complement Activity and Is Important for Successful Establishment of Trypanosome Infections in the Fly Midgut 
The complement cascade in mammalian blood can damage the alimentary tract of haematophagous arthropods. As such, these animals have evolved their own repertoire of complement-inactivating factors, which are inadvertently exploited by blood-borne pathogens to escape complement lysis. Unlike the bloodstream stages, the procyclic (insect) stage of Trypanosoma brucei is highly susceptible to complement killing, which is puzzling considering that a tsetse takes a bloodmeal every 2–4 days. In this study, we identified four tsetse (Glossina morsitans morsitans) serine protease inhibitors (serpins) from a midgut expressed sequence tag (EST) library (GmmSRPN3, GmmSRPN5, GmmSRPN9 and GmmSRPN10) and investigated their role in modulating the establishment of a T. brucei infection in the midgut. Although not having evolved in a common blood-feeding ancestor, all four serpins have an active site sharing remarkable homology with the human complement C1-inhibitor serpin, SerpinG1. RNAi knockdown of individual GmmSRPN9 and GmmSRPN10 genes resulted in a significant decreased rate of infection by procyclic form T. brucei. Furthermore, recombinant GmmSRPN10 was both able to inhibit the activity of human complement-cascade serine proteases, C1s and Factor D, and to protect the in vitro killing of procyclic trypanosomes when incubated with complement-activated human serum. Thus, the secretion of serpins, which may be part of a bloodmeal complement inactivation system in tsetse, is used by procyclic trypanosomes to evade an influx of fresh trypanolytic complement with each bloodmeal. This highlights another facet of the complicated relationship between T. brucei and its tsetse vector, where the parasite takes advantage of tsetse physiology to further its chances of propagation and transmission.
Author Summary
Blood feeding arthropods are exploited by blood borne parasites as vectors of transmission. Trypanosoma brucei, a salivarian trypanosome species, must survive, migrate and differentiate in the tsetse until they become mature, mammalian-infective forms within the fly salivary glands. This constitutes a significant challenge to trypanosomes as the major parasite form colonising the tsetse midgut is sensitive to lysis by blood complement, which is introduced into the tsetse gut whenever the fly feeds. In this study, we show that T. brucei may avoid being eliminated by bloodmeal complement by benefitting from a complement-inhibiting enzyme secreted by the fly itself. We showed that this serine protease inhibitor (serpin) enzyme, Serpin10, can inactivate triggers of the complement cascade, protect tsetse-infective trypanosomes from complement lysis, and is important for trypanosome establishment in the tsetse midgut. Taken together, we propose that GmmSRPN10 may be part of a repertoire of complement-inhibiting proteins secreted by tsetse that are utilized by T. brucei to evade complement lysis in the tsetse midgut.
PMCID: PMC4287558  PMID: 25569180
22.  TbGT8 is a bifunctional glycosyltransferase that elaborates N-linked glycans on a protein phosphatase AcP115 and a GPI-anchor modifying glycan in Trypanosoma brucei 
Parasitology International  2014;63(3):513-518.
The procyclic form of Trypanosoma brucei expresses procyclin surface glycoproteins with unusual glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchor side chain structures that contain branched N-acetyllactosamine and lacto-N-biose units. The glycosyltransferase TbGT8 is involved in the synthesis of the branched side chain through its UDP-GlcNAc: βGal β1-3N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase activity. Here, we explored the role of TbGT8 in the mammalian bloodstream form of the parasite with a tetracycline-inducible conditional null T. brucei mutant for TbGT8. Under non-permissive conditions, the mutant showed significantly reduced binding to tomato lectin, which recognizes poly-N-acetyllactosamine-containing glycans. Lectin pull-down assays revealed differences between the wild type and TbGT8 null-mutant T. brucei, notably the absence of a broad protein band with an approximate molecular weight of 110 kDa in the mutant lysate. Proteomic analysis revealed that the band contained several glycoproteins, including the acidic ecto-protein phosphatase AcP115, a stage-specific glycoprotein in the bloodstream form of T. brucei. Western blotting with an anti-AcP115 antibody revealed that AcP115 was approximately 10 kDa smaller in the mutant. Enzymatic de-N-glycosylation demonstrated that the underlying protein cores were the same, suggesting that the 10-kDa difference was due to differences in N-linked glycans. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed the colocalization of hemagglutinin epitope-tagged TbGT8 and the Golgi-associated protein GRASP. These data suggest that TbGT8 is involved in the construction of complex poly-N-acetyllactosamine-containing type N-linked and GPI-linked glycans in the Golgi of the bloodstream and procyclic parasite forms, respectively.
Graphical abstract
•TbGT8 is involved in N-linked glycan synthesis in the bloodstream form.•AcP115 is a target glycoprotein of TbGT8-dependent glycan processing.•TbGT8 is localized in the Golgi and modified by N-linked glycan(s).
PMCID: PMC4003530  PMID: 24508870
CBB, Coomassie brilliant blue; cKO, conditional double knockout; FP, flagellar pocket and lysosome/endosome system; GlcNAc, N-acetylglucosamine; GPI, glycosylphosphatidylinositol; HA, hemagglutinin epitope; LacNAc, N-acetyllactosamine; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; PNGase, peptide N-glycosidase; VSG, variant surface glycoprotein; Glycosyltransferase; Trypanosoma brucei; N-linked glycan; GPI-anchor; Tomato lectin
23.  The hnRNP F/H homologue of Trypanosoma brucei is differentially expressed in the two life cycle stages of the parasite and regulates splicing and mRNA stability 
Nucleic Acids Research  2013;41(13):6577-6594.
Trypanosomes are protozoan parasites that cycle between a mammalian host (bloodstream form) and an insect host, the Tsetse fly (procyclic stage). In trypanosomes, all mRNAs are trans-spliced as part of their maturation. Genome-wide analysis of trans-splicing indicates the existence of alternative trans-splicing, but little is known regarding RNA-binding proteins that participate in such regulation. In this study, we performed functional analysis of the Trypanosoma brucei heterogeneous nuclear ribonucleoproteins (hnRNP) F/H homologue, a protein known to regulate alternative splicing in metazoa. The hnRNP F/H is highly expressed in the bloodstream form of the parasite, but is also functional in the procyclic form. Transcriptome analyses of RNAi-silenced cells were used to deduce the RNA motif recognized by this protein. A purine rich motif, AAGAA, was enriched in both the regulatory regions flanking the 3′ splice site and poly (A) sites of the regulated genes. The motif was further validated using mini-genes carrying wild-type and mutated sequences in the 3′ and 5′ UTRs, demonstrating the role of hnRNP F/H in mRNA stability and splicing. Biochemical studies confirmed the binding of the protein to this proposed site. The differential expression of the protein and its inverse effects on mRNA level in the two lifecycle stages demonstrate the role of hnRNP F/H in developmental regulation.
PMCID: PMC3711420  PMID: 23666624
24.  Trypanosoma brucei 
Experimental parasitology  2007;118(3):420-433.
Trypanosome alternative oxidase (TAO) and the cytochrome oxidase (COX) are two developmentally regulated terminal oxidases of the mitochondrial electron transport chain in Trypanosoma brucei. Here, we have compared the import of TAO and cytochrome oxidase subunit IV (COIV), two stage specific nuclear encoded mitochondrial proteins, into the bloodstream and procyclic form mitochondria of T. brucei to understand the import processes in two different developmental stages. Under in vitro conditions TAO and COIV were imported and processed into isolated mitochondria from both the bloodstream and procyclic forms. With mitochondria isolated from the procyclic form, the import of TAO and COIV was dependent on the mitochondrial inner membrane potential (Δψ) and required protein(s) on the outer membrane. Import of these proteins also depended on the presence of both internal and external ATP. However, import of TAO and COIV into isolated mitochondria from the bloodstream form was not inhibited after the mitochondrial Δψ was dissipated by valinomycin, CCCP, or valinomycin and oligomycin in combination. In contrast, import of these proteins into bloodstream mitochondria was abolished after the hydrolysis of ATP by apyrase or removal of the ATP and ATP-generating system, suggesting that import is dependent on the presence of external ATP. Together, these data suggest that nuclear encoded proteins such as TAO and COIV are imported in the mitochondria of the bloodstream and the procyclic forms via different mechanism. Differential import conditions of nuclear encoded mitochondrial proteins of T. brucei possibly help it to adapt to different life forms.
PMCID: PMC2265780  PMID: 18021773
Trypanosoma brucei; Mitochondrial protein import; Membrane potential; Trypanosome alternative oxidase
25.  Trypanin, a Component of the Flagellar Dynein Regulatory Complex, Is Essential in Bloodstream Form African Trypanosomes 
PLoS Pathogens  2006;2(9):e101.
The Trypanosoma brucei flagellum is a multifunctional organelle with critical roles in motility, cellular morphogenesis, and cell division. Although motility is thought to be important throughout the trypanosome lifecycle, most studies of flagellum structure and function have been restricted to the procyclic lifecycle stage, and our knowledge of the bloodstream form flagellum is limited. We have previously shown that trypanin functions as part of a flagellar dynein regulatory system that transmits regulatory signals from the central pair apparatus and radial spokes to axonemal dyneins. Here we investigate the requirement for this dynein regulatory system in bloodstream form trypanosomes. We demonstrate that trypanin is localized to the flagellum of bloodstream form trypanosomes, in a pattern identical to that seen in procyclic cells. Surprisingly, trypanin RNA interference is lethal in the bloodstream form. These knockdown mutants fail to initiate cytokinesis, but undergo multiple rounds of organelle replication, accumulating multiple flagella, nuclei, kinetoplasts, mitochondria, and flagellum attachment zone structures. These findings suggest that normal flagellar beat is essential in bloodstream form trypanosomes and underscore the emerging concept that there is a dichotomy between trypanosome lifecycle stages with respect to factors that contribute to cell division and cell morphogenesis. This is the first time that a defined dynein regulatory complex has been shown to be essential in any organism and implicates the dynein regulatory complex and other enzymatic regulators of flagellar motility as candidate drug targets for the treatment of African sleeping sickness.
African trypanosomes are protozoan parasites that cause African sleeping sickness, a fatal disease with devastating health and economic consequences. These parasites are indigenous to a 9 million-km2 area of sub-Saharan Africa where 60 million people live at risk of infection every day. In addition to the tremendous human health burden posed by trypanosomes, their infection of wild and domestic animals presents a barrier to sustained economic development of vast regions of otherwise productive land. Current drugs used for treatment of sleeping sickness are antiquated, toxic, and often ineffective; thus, there is a dire need for the development of innovative approaches for therapeutic intervention. Trypanosomes are highly motile and this motility requires coordinated regulation of axonemal dynein, a molecular motor that drives beating of the parasite's flagellum. In the present work, the authors demonstrate that the protein trypanin, which is part of a signaling system that regulates the flagellar dynein motor, is essential in bloodstream stage African trypanosomes. This surprising finding raises the possibility that numerous enzymes and regulatory proteins that are necessary for flagellar motility may represent novel targets for chemotherapeutic intervention in African sleeping sickness.
PMCID: PMC1579245  PMID: 17009870

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