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1.  Lipid Metabolism as a Therapeutic Target 
PMCID: PMC3332162  PMID: 22567284
2.  Sphingolipid and Ceramide Homeostasis: Potential Therapeutic Targets 
Sphingolipids are ubiquitous in eukaryotic cells where they have been attributed a plethora of functions from the formation of structural domains to polarized cellular trafficking and signal transduction. Recent research has identified and characterised many of the key enzymes involved in sphingolipid metabolism and this has led to a heightened interest in the possibility of targeting these processes for therapies against cancers, Alzheimer's disease, and numerous important human pathogens. In this paper we outline the major pathways in eukaryotic sphingolipid metabolism and discuss these in relation to disease and therapy for both chronic and infectious conditions.
PMCID: PMC3286894  PMID: 22400113
3.  Screening the MayBridge Rule of 3 Fragment Library for Compounds That Interact with the Trypanosoma brucei myo-Inositol-3-Phosphate Synthase and/or Show Trypanocidal Activity 
Inositol-3-phosphate synthase (INO1) has previously been genetically validated as a drug target against Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. Chemical intervention of this essential enzyme could lead to new therapeutic agents. Unfortunately, no potent inhibitors of INO1 from any organism have been reported, so a screen for potential novel inhibitors of T. brucei INO1was undertaken. Detection of inhibition of T. brucei INO1 is problematic due to the nature of the reaction. Direct detection requires differentiation between glucose-6-phosphate and inositol-3-phosphate. Coupled enzyme assays could give false positives as potentially they could inhibit the coupling enzyme. Thus, an alternative approach of differential scanning fluorimetry to identify compounds that interact with T. brucei INO1 was employed to screen ~670 compounds from the MayBridge Rule of 3 Fragment Library. This approach identified 38 compounds, which significantly altered the Tm of TbINO1. Four compounds showed trypanocidal activity with ED50s in the tens of micromolar range, with 2 having a selectivity index in excess of 250. The trypanocidal and general cytotoxicity activities of all of the compounds in the library are also reported, with the best having ED50S of ~20 μM against T. brucei.
PMCID: PMC3199943  PMID: 22091402
4.  Non-natural acetogenin analogues as potent Trypanosoma brucei inhibitors 
ChemMedChem  2014;9(11):2548-2556.
A series of novel bis-tetrahydropyran 1,4-triazole analogues based on the acetogenin framework display low micromolar trypanocidal activities towards both bloodstream and insect forms of Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. A divergent synthetic strategy was adopted for the synthesis of the key tetrahydropyran intermediates to enable rapid access to diastereochemical variation either side of the 1,4-triazole core. The resulting diastereomeric analogues displayed varying degrees of trypanocidal activity and selectivity in structure activity relationship studies.
PMCID: PMC4298241  PMID: 25145275
Trypanosomiasis; acetogenins; neglected diseases; natural products
5.  The essential roles of cytidine diphosphate‐diacylglycerol synthase in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei 
Molecular Microbiology  2014;92(3):453-470.
Lipid metabolism in Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of African sleeping sickness, differs from its human host in several fundamental ways. This has lead to the validation of a plethora of novel drug targets, giving hope of novel chemical intervention against this neglected disease. Cytidine diphosphate diacylglycerol (CDP‐DAG) is a central lipid intermediate for several pathways in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes, being produced by CDP‐DAG synthase (CDS). However, nothing is known about the single T. brucei CDS gene (Tb927.7.220/EC or its activity. In this study we show TbCDS is functional by complementation of a non‐viable yeast CDS null strain and that it is essential in the bloodstream form of the parasite via a conditional knockout. The TbCDS conditional knockout showed morphological changes including a cell‐cycle arrest due in part to kinetoplast segregation defects. Biochemical phenotyping of TbCDS conditional knockout showed drastically altered lipid metabolism where reducing levels of phosphatidylinositol detrimentally impacted on glycoylphosphatidylinositol biosynthesis. These studies also suggest that phosphatidylglycerol synthesized via the phosphatidylglycerol‐phosphate synthase is not synthesized from CDP‐DAG, as was previously thought. TbCDS was shown to localized the ER and Golgi, probably to provide CDP‐DAG for the phosphatidylinositol synthases.
PMCID: PMC4114554  PMID: 24533860
6.  Establishment of a Structure–Activity Relationship of 1H-Imidazo[4,5-c]quinoline-Based Kinase Inhibitor NVP-BEZ235 as a Lead for African Sleeping Sickness 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2014;57(11):4834-4848.
Compound NVP-BEZ235 (1) is a potent inhibitor of human phospoinositide-3-kinases and mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) that also showed high inhibitory potency against Trypanosoma brucei cultures. With an eye toward using 1 as a starting point for anti-trypanosomal drug discovery, we report efforts to reduce host cell toxicity, to improve the physicochemical properties, and to improve the selectivity profile over human kinases. In this work, we have developed structure–activity relationships for analogues of 1 and have prepared analogues of 1 with improved solubility properties and good predicted central nervous system exposure. In this way, we have identified 4e, 9, 16e, and 16g as the most promising leads to date. We also report cell phenotype and phospholipidomic studies that suggest that these compounds exert their anti-trypanosomal effects, at least in part, by inhibition of lipid kinases.
PMCID: PMC4099174  PMID: 24805946
7.  Spermidine Feeding Decreases Age-Related Locomotor Activity Loss and Induces Changes in Lipid Composition 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(7):e102435.
Spermidine is a natural polyamine involved in many important cellular functions, whose supplementation in food or water increases life span and stress resistance in several model organisms. In this work, we expand spermidine’s range of age-related beneficial effects by demonstrating that it is also able to improve locomotor performance in aged flies. Spermidine’s mechanism of action on aging has been primarily related to general protein hypoacetylation that subsequently induces autophagy. Here, we suggest that the molecular targets of spermidine also include lipid metabolism: Spermidine-fed flies contain more triglycerides and show altered fatty acid and phospholipid profiles. We further determine that most of these metabolic changes are regulated through autophagy. Collectively, our data suggests an additional and novel lipid-mediated mechanism of action for spermidine-induced autophagy.
PMCID: PMC4092136  PMID: 25010732
8.  Phosphoinositide Metabolism Links cGMP-Dependent Protein Kinase G to Essential Ca2+ Signals at Key Decision Points in the Life Cycle of Malaria Parasites 
PLoS Biology  2014;12(3):e1001806.
Chemical genetics and a global comparative analysis of phosphorylation and phospholipids in vivo shows that PKG is the upstream regulator that induces calcium signals that enables Plasmodium to progress through its complex life cycle.
Many critical events in the Plasmodium life cycle rely on the controlled release of Ca2+ from intracellular stores to activate stage-specific Ca2+-dependent protein kinases. Using the motility of Plasmodium berghei ookinetes as a signalling paradigm, we show that the cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent protein kinase, PKG, maintains the elevated level of cytosolic Ca2+ required for gliding motility. We find that the same PKG-dependent pathway operates upstream of the Ca2+ signals that mediate activation of P. berghei gametocytes in the mosquito and egress of Plasmodium falciparum merozoites from infected human erythrocytes. Perturbations of PKG signalling in gliding ookinetes have a marked impact on the phosphoproteome, with a significant enrichment of in vivo regulated sites in multiple pathways including vesicular trafficking and phosphoinositide metabolism. A global analysis of cellular phospholipids demonstrates that in gliding ookinetes PKG controls phosphoinositide biosynthesis, possibly through the subcellular localisation or activity of lipid kinases. Similarly, phosphoinositide metabolism links PKG to egress of P. falciparum merozoites, where inhibition of PKG blocks hydrolysis of phosphatidylinostitol (4,5)-bisphosphate. In the face of an increasing complexity of signalling through multiple Ca2+ effectors, PKG emerges as a unifying factor to control multiple cellular Ca2+ signals essential for malaria parasite development and transmission.
Author Summary
Malaria, caused by Plasmodium spp. parasites, is a profound human health problem. Plasmodium parasites progress through a complex life cycle as they move between infected humans and blood-feeding mosquitoes. We know that tight regulation of calcium ion levels within the cytosol of the parasite is critical to control multiple signalling events in their life cycle. However, how these calcium levels are controlled remains a mystery. Here, we show that a single protein kinase, the cGMP-dependent protein kinase G (PKG), controls the calcium signals that are critical at three different points of the life cycle: (1) for the exit of the merozoite form of the parasite from human erythrocytes (red blood cells), (2) for the cellular activation that happens when Plasmodium sexual transmission stages are ingested by a blood-feeding mosquito, and (3) for the productive gliding of the ookinete, which is the parasite stage that invades the mosquito midgut. We provide initial evidence that the universal role of PKG relies on the production of lipid precursors which then give rise to inositol (1,4,5)-trisphosphate (IP3), a messenger molecule that serves as a signal for the release of calcium from stores within the parasite. This signalling pathway provides a potential target to block both malaria development in the human host and transmission to the mosquito vector.
PMCID: PMC3942320  PMID: 24594931
9.  Virulent and Avirulent Strains of Toxoplasma gondii Which Differ in Their Glycosylphosphatidylinositol Content Induce Similar Biological Functions in Macrophages 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(1):e85386.
Glycosylphosphatidylinositols (GPIs) from several protozoan parasites are thought to elicit a detrimental stimulation of the host innate immune system aside their main function to anchor surface proteins. Here we analyzed the GPI biosynthesis of an avirulent Toxoplasma gondii type 2 strain (PTG) by metabolic radioactive labeling. We determined the biological function of individual GPI species in the PTG strain in comparison with previously characterized GPI-anchors of a virulent strain (RH). The GPI intermediates of both strains were structurally similar, however the abundance of two of six GPI intermediates was significantly reduced in the PTG strain. The side-by-side comparison of GPI-anchor content revealed that the PTG strain had only ∼34% of the protein-free GPIs as well as ∼70% of the GPI-anchored proteins with significantly lower rates of protein N-glycosylation compared to the RH strain. All mature GPIs from both strains induced comparable secretion levels of TNF-α and IL-12p40, and initiated TLR4/MyD88-dependent NF-κBp65 activation in macrophages. Taken together, these results demonstrate that PTG and RH strains differ in their GPI biosynthesis and possess significantly different GPI-anchor content, while individual GPI species of both strains induce similar biological functions in macrophages.
PMCID: PMC3904843  PMID: 24489660
10.  Untargeted metabolomic analysis of miltefosine action in Leishmania infantum reveals changes to the internal lipid metabolism☆ 
Graphical abstract
•Metabolomics reveals 876 metabolites of the Leishmania donovani metabolome.•Miltefosine alters 10% of the metabolome of sensitive but not resistant cells.•Internal lipid fragments are increased upon miltefosine introduction.•Resistant lines have mutations in the miltefosine transporter.
There are many theories as to the mode of action of miltefosine against Leishmania including alterations to the membrane lipid content, induction of apoptosis and modulation of macrophage responses. Here we perform untargeted metabolomics to elucidate the metabolic changes involved in miltefosine action. Over 800 metabolites were detected, 10% of which were significantly altered after 3.75 h. Many of the changes related to an increase in alkane fragment and sugar release. Fragment release is synchronised with reactive oxygen species production, but native membrane phospholipids remain intact. Signs of DNA damage were also detected as were changes to the levels of some thiols and polyamines. After 5 h of miltefosine treatment the cells showed depleted levels of most metabolites, indicating that the cells’ outer membrane integrity had become compromised and internal metabolites were escaping upon cell death. In miltefosine resistant cells, the drug was not internalised and the changes to the internal metabolite levels were not seen. In contrast, cells resistant to antimony (SbIII) had similar corresponding alterations to the levels of internal metabolites as wild-type cells. A detailed knowledge of the mode of action of miltefosine will be important to inform the design of combination therapies to combat leishmaniasis, something that the research community should be prioritising in the coming years.
PMCID: PMC3940234  PMID: 24596665
Miltefosine; Leishmania; Metabolomics; Mode of action
11.  The glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) biosynthetic pathway of bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei is dependent on the de novo synthesis of inositol 
Molecular microbiology  2006;61(1):89-105.
In bloodstream-form Trypanosoma brucei (the causative agent of African sleeping sickness) the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchor biosynthetic pathway has been validated genetically and chemically as a drug target. The conundrum that GPI anchors could not be in vivo labelled with [3H]-inositol led us to hypothesize that de novo synthesis was responsible for supplying myo-inositol for phosphatidylinositol (PI) destined for GPI synthesis. The rate-limiting step of the de novo synthesis is the isomerization of glucose 6-phosphate to 1-d-myo-inositol-3-phosphate, catalysed by a 1-d-myo-inositol-3-phosphate synthase (INO1). When grown under non-permissive conditions, a conditional double knockout demonstrated that INO1 is an essential gene in bloodstream-form T. brucei. It also showed that the de novo synthesized myo-inositol is utilized to form PI, which is preferentially used in GPI biosynthesis. We also show for the first time that extracellular myo-inositol can in fact be used in GPI formation although to a limited extent. Despite this, extracellular inositol cannot compensate for the deletion of INO1. Supporting these results, there was no change in PI levels in the conditional double knockout cells grown under non-permissive conditions, showing that perturbation of growth is due to a specific lack of de novo synthesized myo-inositol and not a general inositol-less death. These results suggest that there is a distinction between de novo synthesized myo-inositol and that from the extracellular environment.
PMCID: PMC3793301  PMID: 16824097
12.  Mitochondrial fatty acid synthesis is required for normal mitochondrial morphology and function in Trypanosoma brucei 
Molecular microbiology  2008;67(5):1125-1142.
Trypanosoma brucei use microsomal elongases for de novo synthesis of most of its fatty acids. In addition, this parasite utilizes an essential mitochondrial type II synthase for production of octanoate (a lipoic acid precursor) as well as longer fatty acids such as palmitate. Evidence from other organisms suggests that mitochondrially synthesized fatty acids are required for efficient respiration but the exact relationship remains unclear. In procyclic form trypanosomes, we also found that RNAi depletion of the mitochondrial acyl carrier protein, an important component of the fatty acid synthesis machinery, significantly reduces cytochrome-mediated respiration. This reduction was explained by RNAi-mediated inhibition of respiratory complexes II, III and IV, but not complex I. Other effects of RNAi, such as changes in mitochondrial morphology and alterations in membrane potential, raised the possibility of a change in mitochondrial membrane composition. Using mass spectrometry, we observed a decrease in total and mitochondrial phosphatidylinositol and mitochondrial phosphatidylethanolamine. Thus, we conclude that the mitochondrial synthase produces fatty acids needed for maintaining local phospholipid levels that are required for activity of respiratory complexes and preservation of mitochondrial morphology and function.
PMCID: PMC3776142  PMID: 18221265
13.  Cardiolipin synthase is required for Streptomyces coelicolor morphogenesis 
Molecular microbiology  2012;84(1):181-197.
The fluid mosaic model has recently been amended to account for the existence of membrane domains enriched in certain phospholipids. In rod-shaped bacteria, the anionic phospholipid cardiolipin is enriched at the cell poles but its role in the morphogenesis of the filamentous bacterium Streptomyces coelicolor is unknown. It was impossible to delete clsA (cardiolipin synthase; SCO1389) unless complemented by a second copy of clsA elsewhere in the chromosome. When placed under the control of an inducible promoter, clsA expression, phospholipid profile and morphogenesis became inducer dependent. TLC analysis of phospholipid showed altered profiles upon depletion of clsA expression. Analysis of cardiolipin by mass spectrometry showed two distinct cardiolipin envelopes that reflected differences in acyl chain length; the level of the larger cardiolipin envelope was reduced in concert with clsA expression. ClsA-EGFP did not localize to specific locations, but cardiolipin itself showed enrichment at hyphal tips, branch points and anucleate regions. Quantitative analysis of hyphal dimensions showed that the mycelial architecture and the erection of aerial hyphae were affected by the expression of clsA. Overexpression of clsA resulted in weakened hyphal tips, misshaped aerial hyphae and anucleate spores and demonstrates that cardiolipin synthesis is a requirement for morphogenesis in Streptomyces.
PMCID: PMC3776143  PMID: 22409773
14.  Lipidomic analysis of bloodstream and procyclic form Trypanosoma brucei 
Parasitology  2010;137(9):1357-1392.
The biological membranes of Trypanosoma brucei contain a complex array of phospholipids that are synthesized de novo from precursors obtained either directly from the host, or as catabolised endocytosed lipids. This paper describes the use of nanoflow electrospray tandem mass spectrometry and high resolution mass spectrometry in both positive and negative ion modes, allowing the identification of ~500 individual molecular phospholipids species from total lipid extracts of cultured bloodstream and procyclic form T. brucei. Various molecular species of all of the major subclasses of glycerophospholipids were identified including phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, and phosphatidylinositol as well as phosphatidic acid, phosphatidylglycerol and cardolipin, and the sphingolipids sphingomyelin, inositol phosphoceramide and ethanolamine phosphoceramide. The lipidomic data obtained in this study will aid future biochemical phenotyping of either genetically or chemically manipulated commonly used bloodstream and procyclic strains of Trypanosoma brucei. Hopefully this will allow a greater understanding of the bizarre world of lipids in this important human pathogen.
PMCID: PMC3744936  PMID: 20602846
Phospholipid; Trypanosoma brucei; mass spectrometry; lipidomics
15.  First small molecular inhibitors of T. brucei dolicholphosphate mannose synthase (DPMS), a validated drug target in African sleeping sickness 
Drug-like molecules with activity against Trypanosoma brucei are urgently required as potential therapeutics for the treatment of African sleeping sickness. Starting from known inhibitors of other glycosyltransferases, we have developed the first small molecular inhibitors of dolicholphosphate mannose synthase (DPMS), a mannosyltransferase critically involved in glycoconjugate biosynthesis in T. brucei. We show that these DPMS inhibitors prevent the biosynthesis of glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors, and possess trypanocidal activity against live trypanosomes.
PMCID: PMC3744937  PMID: 19217283
African sleeping sickness; Trypanosoma; Dolicholphosphate mannose synthase; Enzyme inhibitors
16.  Lipid metabolism in Trypanosoma brucei 
Trypanosoma brucei membranes consist of all major eukaryotic glycerophospholipid and sphingolipid classes. These are de novo synthesized from precursors obtained either from the host or from catabolised endocytosed lipids. In recent years, substantial progress has been made in the molecular and biochemical characterisation of several of these lipid biosynthetic pathways, using gene knockout or RNA interference strategies or by enzymatic characterization of individual reactions. Together with the completed genome, these studies have highlighted several possible differences between mammalian and trypanosome lipid biosynthesis that could be exploited for the development of drugs against the diseases caused by these parasites.
PMCID: PMC3744938  PMID: 20382188
Trypanosoma; Phospholipids; Sphingolipids; Fatty acids; Biosynthesis; Metabolism; Gene IDs
17.  A novel phospholipase from Trypanosoma brucei 
Molecular microbiology  2007;63(4):1078-1095.
Phospholipase A1 activities have been detected in most cells where they have been sought and yet their characterization lags far behind that of the phospholipases A2, C and D. The study presented here details the first cloning and characterization of a cytosolic PLA1 that exhibits preference for phosphatidylcholine (GPCho) substrates. Trypanosoma brucei phospholipase A1 (TbPLA1) is unique from previously identified eukaryotic PLA1 because it is evolutionarily related to bacterial secreted PLA1. A T. brucei ancestor most likely acquired the PLA1 from a horizontal gene transfer of a PLA1 from Sodalis glossinidius, a bacterial endosymbiont of tsetse flies. Nano-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry analysis of TbPLA1 mutants established that the enzyme functions in vivo to synthesize lysoGPCho metabolites containing long-chain mostly polyunsaturated and highly unsaturated fatty acids. Analysis of purified mutated recombinant forms of TbPLA1 revealed that this enzyme is a serine hydrolase whose catalytic mechanism involves a triad consisting of the amino acid residues Ser-131, His-234 and Asp-183. The TbPLA1 homozygous null mutants generated here constitute the only PLA1 double knockouts from any organism.
PMCID: PMC3744940  PMID: 17238918
18.  Regulation of Trypanosoma brucei Total and Polysomal mRNA during Development within Its Mammalian Host 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(6):e67069.
The gene expression of Trypanosoma brucei has been examined extensively in the blood of mammalian hosts and in forms found in the midgut of its arthropod vector, the tsetse fly. However, trypanosomes also undergo development within the mammalian bloodstream as they progress from morphologically ‘slender forms’ to transmissible ‘stumpy forms’ through morphological intermediates. This transition is temporally progressive within the first wave of parasitaemia such that gene expression can be monitored in relatively pure slender and stumpy populations as well as during the progression between these extremes. The development also represents the progression of cells from translationally active forms adapted for proliferation in the host to translationally quiescent forms, adapted for transmission. We have used metabolic labelling to quantitate translational activity in slender forms, stumpy forms and in forms undergoing early differentiation to procyclic forms in vitro. Thereafter we have examined the cohort of total mRNAs that are enriched throughout development in the mammalian bloodstream (slender, intermediate and stumpy forms), irrespective of strain, revealing those that exhibit consistent developmental regulation rather than sample specific changes. Transcripts that cosediment with polysomes in stumpy forms and slender forms have also been enriched to identify transcripts that escape translational repression prior to transmission. Combined, the expression and polysomal association of transcripts as trypanosomes undergo development in the mammalian bloodstream have been defined, providing a resource for trypanosome researchers. This facilitates the identification of those that undergo developmental regulation in the bloodstream and therefore those likely to have a role in the survival and capacity for transmission of stumpy forms.
PMCID: PMC3694164  PMID: 23840587
19.  ALDH2 Mediates 5-Nitrofuran Activity in Multiple Species 
Chemistry & biology  2012;19(7):883-892.
Understanding how drugs work in vivo is critical for drug design and for maximizing the potential of currently available drugs. 5-nitrofurans are a class of prodrugs widely used to treat bacterial and trypanosome infections, but despite relative specificity, 5-nitrofurans often cause serious toxic side effects in people. Here, we use yeast and zebrafish, as well as human in vitro systems, to assess the biological activity of 5-nitrofurans, and we identify a conserved interaction between aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) 2 and 5-nitrofurans across these species. In addition, we show that the activity of nifurtimox, a 5-nitrofuran anti-trypanosome prodrug, is dependent on zebrafish Aldh2 and is a substrate for human ALDH2. This study reveals a conserved and biologically relevant ALDH2-5-nitrofuran interaction that may have important implications for managing the toxicity of 5-nitrofuran treatment.
PMCID: PMC3684953  PMID: 22840776
20.  Functional Analysis of Leishmania Cyclopropane Fatty Acid Synthetase 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51300.
The single gene encoding cyclopropane fatty acid synthetase (CFAS) is present in Leishmania infantum, L. mexicana and L. braziliensis but absent from L. major, a causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis. In L. infantum, usually causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis, the CFAS gene is transcribed in both insect (extracellular) and host (intracellular) stages of the parasite life cycle. Tagged CFAS protein is stably detected in intracellular L. infantum but only during the early log phase of extracellular growth, when it shows partial localisation to the endoplasmic reticulum. Lipid analyses of L. infantum wild type, CFAS null and complemented parasites detect a low abundance CFAS-dependent C19Δ fatty acid, characteristic of a cyclopropanated species, in wild type and add-back cells. Sub-cellular fractionation studies locate the C19Δ fatty acid to both ER and plasma membrane-enriched fractions. This fatty acid is not detectable in wild type L. major, although expression of the L. infantum CFAS gene in L. major generates cyclopropanated fatty acids, indicating that the substrate for this modification is present in L. major, despite the absence of the modifying enzyme. Loss of the L. infantum CFAS gene does not affect extracellular parasite growth, phagocytosis or early survival in macrophages. However, while endocytosis is also unaffected in the extracellular CFAS nulls, membrane transporter activity is defective and the null parasites are more resistant to oxidative stress. Following infection in vivo, L. infantum CFAS nulls exhibit lower parasite burdens in both the liver and spleen of susceptible hosts but it has not been possible to complement this phenotype, suggesting that loss of C19Δ fatty acid may lead to irreversible changes in cell physiology that cannot be rescued by re-expression. Aberrant cyclopropanation in L. major decreases parasite virulence but does not influence parasite tissue tropism.
PMCID: PMC3519623  PMID: 23251490
21.  ALDH2 Mediates 5-Nitrofuran Activity in Multiple Species 
Chemistry & Biology  2012;19(7):883-892.
Understanding how drugs work in vivo is critical for drug design and for maximizing the potential of currently available drugs. 5-nitrofurans are a class of prodrugs widely used to treat bacterial and trypanosome infections, but despite relative specificity, 5-nitrofurans often cause serious toxic side effects in people. Here, we use yeast and zebrafish, as well as human in vitro systems, to assess the biological activity of 5-nitrofurans, and we identify a conserved interaction between aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH) 2 and 5-nitrofurans across these species. In addition, we show that the activity of nifurtimox, a 5-nitrofuran anti-trypanosome prodrug, is dependent on zebrafish Aldh2 and is a substrate for human ALDH2. This study reveals a conserved and biologically relevant ALDH2-5-nitrofuran interaction that may have important implications for managing the toxicity of 5-nitrofuran treatment.
Graphical Abstract
► Zebrafish provide a viable assay for the biological toxicity of 5-nitrofurans ► ALDH2 inhibitors prevent 5-nitrofuran toxicity in zebrafish and yeast ► Genetic dependence on ALDH2 for 5-nitrofuran toxicity in zebrafish and yeast systems ► 5-Nitrofurans bind to and are substrates of human ALDH2
5-nitrofurans are antibiotics activated by pathogen specific enzymes, however, less is known about what happens in the host. Zhou et al. identify aldehyde dehydrogenase 2 as a 5-nitrofuran activating enzyme that has implications for managing some of the toxicity associated with 5-nitrofuran treatment.
PMCID: PMC3684953  PMID: 22840776
22.  ATG5 Is Essential for ATG8-Dependent Autophagy and Mitochondrial Homeostasis in Leishmania major 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(5):e1002695.
Macroautophagy has been shown to be important for the cellular remodelling required for Leishmania differentiation. We now demonstrate that L. major contains a functional ATG12-ATG5 conjugation system, which is required for ATG8-dependent autophagosome formation. Nascent autophagosomes were found commonly associated with the mitochondrion. L. major mutants lacking ATG5 (Δatg5) were viable as promastigotes but were unable to form autophagosomes, had morphological abnormalities including a much reduced flagellum, were less able to differentiate and had greatly reduced virulence to macrophages and mice. Analyses of the lipid metabolome of Δatg5 revealed marked elevation of phosphatidylethanolamines (PE) in comparison to wild type parasites. The Δatg5 mutants also had increased mitochondrial mass but reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and higher levels of reactive oxygen species. These findings indicate that the lack of ATG5 and autophagy leads to perturbation of the phospholipid balance in the mitochondrion, possibly through ablation of membrane use and conjugation of mitochondrial PE to ATG8 for autophagosome biogenesis, resulting in a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired oxidative ability and energy generation. The overall result of this is reduced virulence.
Author Summary
Leishmaniasis is a disease of humans that is of major significance throughout many parts of the world. It is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania and mammals are infected through the bite of a sand fly in which the parasite develops. Parasite remodelling crucial for generation of the human-infective forms is aided by the catabolic process known as autophagy in which cell material is packaged within organelles called autophagosomes and subsequently broken down in the digestive lysosomal compartment. Here we show that autophagy in Leishmania requires the coordinated actions of two pathways, one of which involves a protein called ATG5. We have generated parasite mutants lacking this protein and shown that ATG5 is required for both autophagosome formation and also maintenance of a fully functional mitochondrion. The mutants lacking ATG5 have increased mitochondrial mass and phospholipid content, high levels of oxidants and reduced membrane potential, all being hallmarks of a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired ability for energy generation. Our results have thus revealed that a functional autophagic pathway is crucial for phospholipid homeostasis and mitochondrial function in the parasite and important for the parasite's differentiation, infectivity and virulence to its mammalian host.
PMCID: PMC3355087  PMID: 22615560
23.  Symmetrical choline-derived dications display strong anti-kinetoplastid activity 
To investigate the anti-kinetoplastid activity of choline-derived analogues with previously reported antimalarial efficacy.
From an existing choline analogue library, seven antimalarial compounds, representative of the first-, second- and third-generation analogues previously developed, were assessed for activity against Trypanosoma and Leishmania spp. Using a variety of techniques, the effects of choline analogue exposure on the parasites were documented and a preliminary investigation of their mode of action was performed.
The activities of choline-derived compounds against Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania mexicana were determined. The compounds displayed promising anti-kinetoplastid activity, particularly against T. brucei, to which 4/7 displayed submicromolar EC50 values for the wild-type strain. Low micromolar concentrations of most compounds cleared trypanosome cultures within 24–48 h. The compounds inhibit a choline transporter in Leishmania, but their entry may not depend only on this carrier; T. b. brucei lacks a choline carrier and the mode of uptake remains unclear. The compounds had no effect on the overall lipid composition of the cells, cell cycle progression or cyclic adenosine monophosphate production or short-term effects on intracellular calcium levels. However, several of the compounds, displayed pronounced effects on the mitochondrial membrane potential; this action was not associated with production of reactive oxygen species but rather with a slow rise of intracellular calcium levels and DNA fragmentation.
The choline analogues displayed strong activity against kinetoplastid parasites, particularly against T. b. brucei. In contrast to their antimalarial activity, they did not act on trypanosomes by disrupting choline salvage or phospholipid metabolism, instead disrupting mitochondrial function, leading to chromosomal fragmentation.
PMCID: PMC3001849  PMID: 21078603
Trypanosoma brucei; leishmaniasis; protozoan parasite; lipid metabolism; choline
24.  Depletion of Mitochondrial Acyl Carrier Protein in Bloodstream-Form Trypanosoma brucei Causes a Kinetoplast Segregation Defect▿ 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(3):286-292.
Like other eukaryotes, trypanosomes have an essential type II fatty acid synthase in their mitochondrion. We have investigated the function of this synthase in bloodstream-form parasites by studying the effect of a conditional knockout of acyl carrier protein (ACP), a key player in this fatty acid synthase pathway. We found that ACP depletion not only caused small changes in cellular phospholipids but also, surprisingly, caused changes in the kinetoplast. This structure, which contains the mitochondrial genome in the form of a giant network of several thousand interlocked DNA rings (kinetoplast DNA [kDNA]), became larger in some cells and smaller or absent in others. We observed the same pattern in isolated networks viewed by either fluorescence or electron microscopy. We found that the changes in kDNA size were not due to the disruption of replication but, instead, to a defect in segregation. kDNA segregation is mediated by the tripartite attachment complex (TAC), and we hypothesize that one of the TAC components, a differentiated region of the mitochondrial double membrane, has an altered phospholipid composition when ACP is depleted. We further speculate that this compositional change affects TAC function, and thus kDNA segregation.
PMCID: PMC3067480  PMID: 21239625
25.  Phospholipases A1 
Phospholipase A1 (PLA1) is an enzyme that hydrolyzes phospholipids and produces 2-acyl-lysophospholipids and fatty acids. This lipolytic activity is conserved in a wide range of organisms but is carried out by a diverse set of PLA1 enzymes. Where their function is known, PLA1s have been shown to act as digestive enzymes, possess central roles in membrane maintenance and remodeling, or regulate important cellular mechanisms by the production of various lysophospholipid mediators, such as lysophosphatidylserine and lysophosphatidic acid, which in turn have multiple biological functions.
PMCID: PMC3039968  PMID: 21340002
phospholipase A1; phospholipid; lysophospholipid

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