Simian malaria is still an open question concerning the species of Plasmodium parasites and species of New World monkeys susceptible to the parasites. In addition, the lingering question as to whether these animals are reservoirs for human malaria might become important especially in a scenario of eradication of the disease. To aid in the answers to these questions, monkeys were surveyed for malaria parasite natural infection in the Amazonian state of Rondônia, Brazil, a state with intense environmental alterations due to human activities, which facilitated sampling of the animals.
Parasites were detected and identified in DNA from blood of monkeys, by PCR with primers for the 18S rRNA, CSP and MSP1 genes and sequencing of the amplified fragments. Multiplex PCR primers for the 18S rRNA genes were designed for the parasite species Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium vivax, Plasmodium malariae/Plasmodium brasilianum and Plasmodium simium.
An overall infection rate of 10.9% was observed or 20 out 184 monkey specimens surveyed, mostly by P. brasilianum. However, four specimens of monkeys were found infected with P. falciparum, two of them doubly infected with P. brasilianum and P. falciparum. In addition, a species of monkey of the family Aotidae, Aotus nigriceps, is firstly reported here naturally infected with P. brasilianum. None of the monkeys surveyed was found infected with P. simium/P. vivax.
The rate of natural Plasmodium infection in monkeys in the Brazilian state of Rondônia is in line with previous surveys of simian malaria in the Amazon region. The fact that a monkey species was found that had not previously been described to harbour malaria parasites indicates that the list of monkey species susceptible to Plasmodium infection is yet to be completed. Furthermore, finding monkeys in the region infected with P. falciparum clearly indicates parasite transfer from humans to the animals. Whether this parasite can be transferred back to humans and how persistent the parasite is in monkeys in the wild so to be efficient reservoirs of the disease, is yet to be evaluated. Finding different species of monkeys infected with this parasite species suggests indeed that these animals can act as reservoirs of human malaria.
Simian malaria; New World monkeys; Plasmodium; Amazonian forest; 18S rRNA
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi displays similarities to fungi in terms of its sterol lipid biosynthesis, as ergosterol and other 24-alkylated sterols are its principal endogenous sterols. The sterol pathway is thus a potential drug target for the treatment of Chagas disease. We describe here a comparative study of the growth inhibition, ultrastructural and physiological changes leading to the death of T. cruzi cells following treatment with the sterol biosynthesis inhibitors (SBIs) ketoconazole and lovastatin. We first calculated the drug concentration inhibiting epimastigote growth by 50% (EC50/72 h) or killing all cells within 24 hours (EC100/24 h). Incubation with inhibitors at the EC50/72 h resulted in interesting morphological changes: intense proliferation of the inner mitochondrial membrane, which was corroborated by flow cytometry and confocal microscopy of the parasites stained with rhodamine 123, and strong swelling of the reservosomes, which was confirmed by acridine orange staining. These changes to the mitochondria and reservosomes may reflect the involvement of these organelles in ergosterol biosynthesis or the progressive autophagic process culminating in cell lysis after 6 to 7 days of treatment with SBIs at the EC50/72 h. By contrast, treatment with SBIs at the EC100/24 h resulted in rapid cell death with a necrotic phenotype: time-dependent cytosolic calcium overload, mitochondrial depolarization and reservosome membrane permeabilization (RMP), culminating in cell lysis after a few hours of drug exposure. We provide the first demonstration that RMP constitutes the “point of no return” in the cell death cascade, and propose a model for the necrotic cell death of T. cruzi. Thus, SBIs trigger cell death by different mechanisms, depending on the dose used, in T. cruzi. These findings shed new light on ergosterol biosynthesis and the mechanisms of programmed cell death in this ancient protozoan parasite.
Stem cells can either differentiate into more specialized cells or undergo self-renewal. Several lines of evidence from different organisms suggest that these processes depend on the post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression. The presence of the PUF [Pumilio/FBF (fem-3 binding factor)] domain defines a conserved family of RNA binding proteins involved in repressing gene expression. It has been suggested that a conserved function of PUF proteins is to repress differentiation and sustain the mitotic proliferation of stem cells. In humans, Pumilio-2 (PUM2) is expressed in embryonic stem cells and adult germ cells. Here we show that PUM2 is expressed in a subpopulation of adipose-derived stem cell (ASC) cultures, with a granular pattern of staining in the cytoplasm. Protein levels of PUM2 showed no changes during the differentiation of ASCs into adipocytes. Moreover, RNAi knockdown of pum2 did not alter the rate of adipogenic differentiation compared with wild-type control cells. A ribonomic approach was used to identify PUM2-associated mRNAs. Microarray analysis showed that PUM2-bound mRNAs are part of gene networks involved in cell proliferation and gene expression control. We studied pum2 expression in cell cultures with low or very high levels of proliferation and found that changes in pum2 production were dependent on the proliferation status of the cell. Transient knockdown of pum2 expression by RNAi impaired proliferation of ASCs in vitro. Our results suggest that PUM2 does not repress differentiation of ASCs but rather is involved in the positive control of ASCs division and proliferation.
The experimental murine model of leishmaniasis has been widely used to characterize the immune response against Leishmania. CBA mice develop severe lesions, while C57BL/6 present small chronic lesions under L. amazonensis infection. Employing a transcriptomic approach combined with biological network analysis, the gene expression profiles of C57BL/6 and CBA macrophages, before and after L. amazonensis infection in vitro, were compared. These strains were selected due to their different degrees of susceptibility to this parasite.
The genes expressed by C57BL/6 and CBA macrophages, before and after infection, differ greatly, both with respect to absolute number as well as cell function. Uninfected C57BL/6 macrophages express genes involved in the deactivation pathway of macrophages at lower levels, while genes related to the activation of the host immune inflammatory response, including apoptosis and phagocytosis, have elevated expression levels. Several genes that participate in the apoptosis process were also observed to be up-regulated in C57BL/6 macrophages infected with L. amazonensis, which is very likely related to the capacity of these cells to control parasite infection. By contrast, genes involved in lipid metabolism were found to be up-regulated in CBA macrophages in response to infection, which supports the notion that L. amazonensis probably modulates parasitophorous vacuoles in order to survive and multiply in host cells.
The transcriptomic profiles of C57BL/6 macrophages, before and after infection, were shown to be involved in the macrophage pathway of activation, which may aid in the control of L. amazonensis infection, in contrast to the profiles of CBA cells.
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection is a major burden to public health worldwide, affecting approximately 3% of the human population. Although HCV detection is currently based on reliable tests, the field of medical diagnostics has a growing need for inexpensive, accurate, and quick high-throughput assays. By using the recombinant HCV antigens NS3, NS4, NS5, and Combined, we describe a new bead-based multiplex test capable of detecting HCV infection in human serum samples. The first analysis, made in a singleplex format, showed that each antigen coupled to an individual bead set presented high-level responses for anti-HCV-positive reference serum pools and lower-level responses for the HCV-negative pools. Our next approach was to determine the sensitivity and specificity of each antigen by testing 93 HCV-positive and 93 HCV-negative sera. When assayed in the singleplex format, the NS3, NS4, and NS5 antigens presented lower sensitivity values (50.5%, 51.6%, and 55.9%, respectively) than did the Combined antigen, which presented a sensitivity of 93.5%. All antigens presented 100% specificity. These antigens were then multiplexed in a 4-plex assay, which resulted in increased sensitivity and specificity values, performing with 100% sensitivity and 100% specificity. The positive and negative predictive values for the 4-plex assay were 100%. Although preliminary, this 4-plex assay showed robust results that, aligned with its small-sample-volume requirements and also its cost- and time-effectiveness, make it a reasonable alternative to tests currently used for HCV screening of potentially infected individuals.
Genotyping of hepatitis C virus (HCV) has become an essential tool for prognosis and prediction of treatment duration. The aim of this study was to compare two HCV genotyping methods: reverse hybridization line probe assay (LiPA v.1) and partial sequencing of the NS5B region.
Plasma of 171 patients with chronic hepatitis C were screened using both a commercial method (LiPA HCV Versant, Siemens, Tarrytown, NY, USA) and different primers targeting the NS5B region for PCR amplification and sequencing analysis.
Comparison of the HCV genotyping methods showed no difference in the classification at the genotype level. However, a total of 82/171 samples (47.9%) including misclassification, non-subtypable, discrepant and inconclusive results were not classified by LiPA at the subtype level but could be discriminated by NS5B sequencing. Of these samples, 34 samples of genotype 1a and 6 samples of genotype 1b were classified at the subtype level using sequencing of NS5B.
Sequence analysis of NS5B for genotyping HCV provides precise genotype and subtype identification and an accurate epidemiological representation of circulating viral strains.
HCV; genotyping; NS5B region; 5'UTR
Protein phosphorylation is a reversible post-translational modification essential for the regulation of several signal transduction pathways and biological processes in the living cell. Therefore, the identification of protein phosphorylation sites is crucial to understand cell signaling control at the molecular level. Based on mass spectrometry, recent studies have reported the large-scale mapping of phosphorylation sites in various eukaryotes and prokaryotes. However, little is known about the impact of phosphorylation in protozoan parasites. To in depth characterize the phosphoproteome of Trypanosoma cruzi, a parasite of the Kinetoplastida class, protein samples from cells at different phases of the metacyclogenesis – differentiation process of the parasites from non-infective epimastigotes to infective metacyclic trypomastigotes - were enriched for phosphopeptides using TiO2 chromatography and analyzed on an LTQ-Orbitrap mass spectrometer. In total, 1,671 proteins were identified, including 753 phosphoproteins, containing a total of 2,572 phosphorylation sites. The distribution of phosphorylated residues was 2,162 (84.1%) on serine, 384 (14.9%) on threonine and 26 (1.0%) on tyrosine. Here, we also report several consensus phosphorylation sequence motifs and as some of these conserved groups have enriched biological functions, we can infer the regulation by protein kinases of this functions. To our knowledge, our phosphoproteome is the most comprehensive dataset identified until now for Kinetoplastida species. Here we also were able to extract biological information and infer groups of sites phosphorylated by the same protein kinase. To make our data accessible to the scientific community, we uploaded our study to the data repositories PHOSIDA, Proteome Commons and TriTrypDB enabling researchers to access information about the phosphorylation sites identified here.
Proteasomes are large protein complexes, whose main function is to degrade unnecessary or damaged proteins. The inhibition of proteasome activity in Trypanosoma cruzi blocks parasite replication and cellular differentiation. We demonstrate that proteasome-dependent proteolysis occurs during the cellular differentiation of T. cruzi from replicative non-infectious epimastigotes to non-replicative and infectious trypomastigotes (metacyclogenesis). No peaks of ubiquitin-mediated degradation were observed and the profile of ubiquitinated conjugates was similar at all stages of differentiation. However, an analysis of carbonylated proteins showed significant variation in oxidized protein levels at the various stages of differentiation and the proteasome inhibition also increased oxidized protein levels. Our data suggest that different proteasome complexes coexist during metacyclogenesis. The 20S proteasome may be free or linked to regulatory particles (PA700, PA26 and PA200), at specific cell sites and the coordinated action of these complexes would make it possible for proteolysis of ubiquitin-tagged proteins and oxidized proteins, to coexist in the cell.
The gene coding for Q4DV70 has been cloned and the protein overexpressed in Escherichia coli with an N-terminal His tag. Purification of Q4DV70 was carried out by affinity and size-exclusion chromatography and the His tag was removed by TEV protease digestion. Crystals of Q4DV70 were grown using the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion method.
Q4DV70 is annotated in the Trypanosoma cruzi CL Brener genome as a hypothetical protein with a predicted thioredoxin-like fold, although the catalytic cysteine residues that are conserved in typical oxidoreductases are replaced by serine residues. Gene-expression analysis indicates that this protein is differentially expressed during the T. cruzi life cycle, suggesting that it plays an important role during T. cruzi development. The gene coding for Q4DV70 was cloned and the protein was overexpressed in Escherichia coli with an N-terminal His tag. Purification of Q4DV70 was carried out by affinity and size-exclusion chromatography and the His tag was removed by TEV protease digestion. Crystals of Q4DV70 were grown using the sitting-drop vapour-diffusion method. A diffraction data set was collected to 1.50 Å resolution from a single crystal grown in 25% PEG 1500, 200 mM sodium thiocyanate pH 6.9, 10 mM phenol and 10% ethylene glycol. The crystal belonged to space group P212121, with unit-cell parameters a = 35.04, b = 50.32, c = 61.18 Å. The Q4DV70 structure was solved by molecular replacement using protein disulfide isomerase from yeast (PDB code 2b5e) as a search model. Initial refinement of the model indicated that the solution was correct. These data are being used for refinement of the model of Q4DV70.
Q4DV70; Trypanosoma cruzi; thioredoxin domains
Chagas' disease, caused by the hemoflagellate protozoan Trypanosoma cruzi, affects millions of people in South and Central America. Chronic chagasic cardiomyopathy, the most devastating manifestation of this disease, occurs in approximately one-third of infected individuals. Events associated with the parasite's tropism for and invasion of cardiomyocytes have been the focus of intense investigation in recent years. In the present study, we use murine microarrays to investigate the cellular response caused by invasion of primary murine cardiomyocytes by T. cruzi trypomastigotes. These studies identified 353 murine genes that were differentially expressed during the early stages of invasion and infection of these cells. Genes associated with the immune response, inflammation, cytoskeleton organization, cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions, apoptosis, cell cycle, and oxidative stress are among those affected during the infection. Our data indicate that T. cruzi induces broad modulations of the host cell machinery in ways that provide insight into how the parasite survives, replicates, and persists in the infected host and ultimately defines the clinical outcome of the infection.
The three trypanosomatids pathogenic to men, Trypanosoma cruzi, Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major, are etiological agents of Chagas disease, African sleeping sickness and cutaneous leishmaniasis, respectively. The complete sequencing of these trypanosomatid genomes represented a breakthrough in the understanding of these organisms. Genome sequencing is a step towards solving the parasite biology puzzle, as there are a high percentage of genes encoding proteins without functional annotation. Also, technical limitations in protein expression in heterologous systems reinforce the evident need for the development of a high-throughput reverse genetics platform. Ideally, such platform would lead to efficient cloning and compatibility with various approaches. Thus, we aimed to construct a highly efficient cloning platform compatible with plasmid vectors that are suitable for various approaches.
We constructed a platform with a flexible structure allowing the exchange of various elements, such as promoters, fusion tags, intergenic regions or resistance markers. This platform is based on Gateway® technology, to ensure a fast and efficient cloning system. We obtained plasmid vectors carrying genes for fluorescent proteins (green, cyan or yellow), and sequences for the c-myc epitope, and tandem affinity purification or polyhistidine tags. The vectors were verified by successful subcellular localization of two previously characterized proteins (TcRab7 and PAR 2) and a putative centrin. For the tandem affinity purification tag, the purification of two protein complexes (ribosome and proteasome) was performed.
We constructed plasmids with an efficient cloning system and suitable for use across various applications, such as protein localization and co-localization, protein partner identification and protein expression. This platform also allows vector customization, as the vectors were constructed to enable easy exchange of its elements. The development of this high-throughput platform is a step closer towards large-scale trypanosome applications and initiatives.
The strategy used to treat HCV infection depends on the genotype involved. An accurate and reliable genotyping method is therefore of paramount importance. We describe here, for the first time, the use of a liquid microarray for HCV genotyping. This liquid microarray is based on the 5′UTR — the most highly conserved region of HCV — and the variable region NS5B sequence. The simultaneous genotyping of two regions can be used to confirm findings and should detect inter-genotypic recombination. Plasma samples from 78 patients infected with viruses with genotypes and subtypes determined in the Versant™ HCV Genotype Assay LiPA (version I; Siemens Medical Solutions, Diagnostics Division, Fernwald, Germany) were tested with our new liquid microarray method. This method successfully determined the genotypes of 74 of the 78 samples previously genotyped in the Versant™ HCV Genotype Assay LiPA (74/78, 95%). The concordance between the two methods was 100% for genotype determination (74/74). At the subtype level, all 3a and 2b samples gave identical results with both methods (17/17 and 7/7, respectively). Two 2c samples were correctly identified by microarray, but could only be determined to the genotype level with the Versant™ HCV assay. Genotype “1” subtypes (1a and 1b) were correctly identified by the Versant™ HCV assay and the microarray in 68% and 40% of cases, respectively. No genotype discordance was found for any sample. HCV was successfully genotyped with both methods, and this is of prime importance for treatment planning. Liquid microarray assays may therefore be added to the list of methods suitable for HCV genotyping. It provides comparable results and may readily be adapted for the detection of other viruses frequently co-infecting HCV patients. Liquid array technology is thus a reliable and promising platform for HCV genotyping.
Mammalian mitochondria, as well as rat, plant and Caenorhabditis elegans mitochondria, possess an ATP-sensitive K+ channel (mitoKATP) that has been pharmacologically characterized. Opening of mitoKATP and the subsequent K+ entry into the matrix was shown to have three effects on mitochondria physiology: (i) an increase in matrix volume (swelling), (ii) an acceleration of respiration, and (iii) an increase in reactive oxygen species (ROS) production. These effects on mitochondria bioenergetics have been shown to be part of distinct intracellular signaling pathways, to protect against cell death and to modulate gene transcription. To date, such a channel or its activity has not been described in trypanosomatids. In the present study, we show pharmacological evidence for the presence of a mitoKATP in trypanosomatids. Cells were incubated in a hypotonic medium followed by mild detergent exposure to isolate mitoplasts from Trypanosoma cruzi and Crithidia fasciculata. Mitoplasts swelled when incubated in KCl medium due to respiration-driven K+ entry into the matrix. Swelling was sensitive to the presence of ATP when the mitoplast suspension was incubated in K+-containing, but not in K+-free, medium. The ATP inhibition of swelling was reversed by the mitoKATP agonist diazoxide and the diazoxide-induced swelling was inhibited by the mitoKATP blockers 5-hydroxydecanoate (5HD) or glibenclamide. Similar to mammalian and rat mitochondria, trypanosomatid mitoKATP activity was modulated by the general protein kinase C (PKC) agonist phorbol 12-myristate 13-acetate (PMA) and antagonist chelerythrine. As expected, the potassium ionophore valinomycin could also reverse the ATP-inhibited state but this reversal was not sensitive to 5HD or glibenclamide. Dose response curves for ATP, diazoxide and 5HD are presented. These results provide strong evidence for the presence of an ATP-sensitive K+ in trypanosomatid mitochondria.
Mitochondrial ATP-sensitive K+ channel; Mitoplasts; Trypanosome; Crithidia
Hepatitis C virus (HCV) genotyping is the most significant predictor of the response to antiviral therapy. The aim of this study was to develop and evaluate a novel real-time PCR method for HCV genotyping based on the NS5B region.
Two triplex reaction sets were designed, one to detect genotypes 1a, 1b and 3a; and another to detect genotypes 2a, 2b, and 2c. This approach had an overall sensitivity of 97.0%, detecting 295 of the 304 tested samples. All samples genotyped by real-time PCR had the same type that was assigned using LiPA version 1 (Line in Probe Assay). Although LiPA v. 1 was not able to subtype 68 of the 295 samples (23.0%) and rendered different subtype results from those assigned by real-time PCR for 12/295 samples (4.0%), NS5B sequencing and real-time PCR results agreed in all 146 tested cases. Analytical sensitivity of the real-time PCR assay was determined by end-point dilution of the 5000 IU/ml member of the OptiQuant HCV RNA panel. The lower limit of detection was estimated to be 125 IU/ml for genotype 3a, 250 IU/ml for genotypes 1b and 2b, and 500 IU/ml for genotype 1a.
The total time required for performing this assay was two hours, compared to four hours required for LiPA v. 1 after PCR-amplification. Furthermore, the estimated reaction cost was nine times lower than that of available commercial methods in Brazil. Thus, we have developed an efficient, feasible, and affordable method for HCV genotype identification.
Molecular studies have shown several peculiarities in the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression in trypanosomatids. Protein coding genes are organized in long polycistronic units that seem to be constitutively transcribed. Therefore, post-transcriptional regulation of gene expression is considered to be the main point for control of transcript abundance and functionality. Here we describe the characterization of a 17 kDa RNA-binding protein from Trypanosoma cruzi (TcRBP19) containing an RNA recognition motive (RRM). This protein is coded by a single copy gene located in a high molecular weight chromosome of T. cruzi. Orthologous genes are present in the TriTryp genomes. TcRBP19 shows target selectivity since among the different homoribopolymers it preferentially binds polyC. TcRBP19 is a low expression protein only barely detected at the amastigote stage localizing in a diffuse pattern in the cytoplasm.
Kinetoplastida; Trypanosoma cruzi; RNA binding proteins; RRM protein; TcRBP19
ProtozoaDB (http://www.biowebdb.org/protozoadb) is being developed to initially host both genomics and post-genomics data from Plasmodium falciparum, Entamoeba histolytica, Trypanosoma brucei, T. cruzi and Leishmania major, but will hopefully host other protozoan species as more genomes are sequenced. It is based on the Genomics Unified Schema and offers a modern Web-based interface for user-friendly data visualization and exploration. This database is not intended to duplicate other similar efforts such as GeneDB, PlasmoDB, TcruziDB or even TDRtargets, but to be complementary by providing further analyses with emphasis on distant similarities (HMM-based) and phylogeny-based annotations including orthology analysis. ProtozoaDB will be progressively linked to the above-mentioned databases, focusing in performing a multi-source dynamic combination of information through advanced interoperable Web tools such as Web services. Also, to provide Web services will allow third-party software to retrieve and use data from ProtozoaDB in automated pipelines (workflows) or other interoperable Web technologies, promoting better information reuse and integration. We also expect ProtozoaDB to catalyze the development of local and regional bioinformatics capabilities (research and training), and therefore promote/enhance scientific advancement in developing countries.
We used differential display to select genes differentially expressed during differentiation of epimastigotes into metacyclic trypomastigotes in the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. One of the selected clones had a sequence similar to that of the small-subunit (SSU) processome protein Sof1p, which is involved in rRNA processing. The corresponding T. cruzi protein, TcSof1, displayed a nuclear localization and is downregulated during metacyclogenesis. Heterologous RNA interference assays showed that depletion of this protein impaired growth but did not affect progression through the cell cycle, suggesting that ribosome synthesis regulation and the cell cycle are uncoupled in this parasite. Quantitative PCR (qPCR) assays of several SSU processome-specific genes in T. cruzi also showed that most of them were regulated posttranscriptionally. This process involves the accumulation of mRNA in the polysome fraction of metacyclic trypomastigotes, where TcSof1 cannot be detected. Metacyclic trypomastigote polysomes were purified and separated by sucrose gradient sedimentation. Northern blot analysis of the sucrose gradient fractions showed the association of TcSof1 mRNA with polysomes, confirming the qPCR data. The results suggest that the mechanism of regulation involves the blocking of translation elongation and/or termination.