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1.  Trypanosoma brucei (UMP synthase null mutants) are avirulent in mice, but recover virulence upon prolonged culture in vitro while retaining pyrimidine auxotrophy 
Molecular microbiology  2013;90(2):10.1111/mmi.12376.
Summary
African trypanosomes are capable of both de novo synthesis and salvage of pyrimidines. The last two steps in de novo synthesis are catalysed by UMP synthase (UMPS) – a bifunctional enzyme comprising orotate phosphoribosyl transferase (OPRT) and orotidine monophosphate decarboxylase (OMPDC). To investigate the essentiality of pyrimidine biosynthesis in Trypanosoma brucei, we generated a umps double knockout (DKO) line by gene replacement. The DKO was unable to grow in pyrimidine-depleted medium in vitro, unless supplemented with uracil, uridine, deoxyuridine or UMP. DKO parasites were completely resistant to 5-fluoroorotate and hypersensitive to 5-fluorouracil, consistent with loss of UMPS, but remained sensitive to pyrazofurin indicating that, unlike mammalian cells, the primary target of pyrazofurin is not OMPDC. The null mutant was unable to infect mice indicating that salvage of host pyrimidines is insufficient to support growth. However, following prolonged culture in vitro, parasites regained virulence in mice despite retaining pyrimidine auxotrophy. Unlike the wild-type, both pyrimidine auxotrophs secreted substantial quantities of orotate, significantly higher in the virulent DKO line. We propose that this may be responsible for the recovery of virulence in mice, due to host metabolism converting orotate to uridine, thereby bypassing the loss of UMPS in the parasite.
doi:10.1111/mmi.12376
PMCID: PMC3868941  PMID: 23980694
2.  Dissecting the Metabolic Roles of Pteridine Reductase 1 in Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major* 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(12):10429-10438.
Leishmania parasites are pteridine auxotrophs that use an NADPH-dependent pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) and NADH-dependent quinonoid dihydropteridine reductase (QDPR) to salvage and maintain intracellular pools of tetrahydrobiopterin (H4B). However, the African trypanosome lacks a credible candidate QDPR in its genome despite maintaining apparent QDPR activity. Here we provide evidence that the NADH-dependent activity previously reported by others is an assay artifact. Using an HPLC-based enzyme assay, we demonstrate that there is an NADPH-dependent QDPR activity associated with both TbPTR1 and LmPTR1. The kinetic properties of recombinant PTR1s are reported at physiological pH and ionic strength and compared with LmQDPR. Specificity constants (kcat/Km) for LmPTR1 are similar with dihydrobiopterin (H2B) and quinonoid dihydrobiopterin (qH2B) as substrates and about 20-fold lower than LmQDPR with qH2B. In contrast, TbPTR1 shows a 10-fold higher kcat/Km for H2B over qH2B. Analysis of Trypanosoma brucei isolated from infected rats revealed that H4B (430 nm, 98% of total biopterin) was the predominant intracellular pterin, consistent with a dual role in the salvage and regeneration of H4B. Gene knock-out experiments confirmed this: PTR1-nulls could only be obtained from lines overexpressing LmQDPR with H4B as a medium supplement. These cells grew normally with H4B, which spontaneously oxidizes to qH2B, but were unable to survive in the absence of pterin or with either biopterin or H2B in the medium. These findings establish that PTR1 has an essential and dual role in pterin metabolism in African trypanosomes and underline its potential as a drug target.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M110.209593
PMCID: PMC3060496  PMID: 21239486
Enzyme Kinetics; Gene Knockout; Parasite Metabolism; Pterin; Trypanosome; Biopterin; Leishmania; Pteridine Reductase; Quinonoid Pteridine Reductase; Substrate Inhibition
3.  Development and validation of a cytochrome c-coupled assay for pteridine reductase 1 and dihydrofolate reductase 
Analytical Biochemistry  2010;396(2):194-203.
Activity of the pterin- and folate-salvaging enzymes pteridine reductase 1 (PTR1) and dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthetase (DHFR-TS) is commonly measured as a decrease in absorbance at 340 nm, corresponding to oxidation of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADPH). Although this assay has been adequate to study the biology of these enzymes, it is not amenable to support any degree of routine inhibitor assessment because its restricted linearity is incompatible with enhanced throughput microtiter plate screening. In this article, we report the development and validation of a nonenzymatically coupled screening assay in which the product of the enzymatic reaction reduces cytochrome c, causing an increase in absorbance at 550 nm. We demonstrate this assay to be robust and accurate, and we describe its utility in supporting a structure-based design, small-molecule inhibitor campaign against Trypanosoma brucei PTR1 and DHFR-TS.
doi:10.1016/j.ab.2009.09.003
PMCID: PMC2789237  PMID: 19748480
Drug discovery; Screening; Pteridine reductase; Dihydrofolate reductase
4.  Chemical and genetic validation of dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthase as a drug target in African trypanosomes 
Molecular Microbiology  2008;69(2):520-533.
The phenotypes of single- (SKO) and double-knockout (DKO) lines of dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthase (DHFR–TS) of bloodstream Trypanosoma brucei were evaluated in vitro and in vivo. Growth of SKO in vitro is identical to wild-type (WT) cells, whereas DKO has an absolute requirement for thymidine. Removal of thymidine from the medium triggers growth arrest in S phase, associated with gross morphological changes, followed by cell death after 60 h. DKO is unable to infect mice, whereas the virulence of SKO is similar to WT. Normal growth and virulence could be restored by transfection of DKO with T. brucei DHFR–TS, but not with Escherichia coli TS. As pteridine reductase (PTR1) levels are unchanged in SKO and DKO cells, PTR1 is not able to compensate for loss of DHFR activity. Drugs such as raltitrexed or methotrexate with structural similarity to folic acid are up to 300-fold more potent inhibitors of WT cultured in a novel low-folate medium, unlike hydrophobic antifols such as trimetrexate or pyrimethamine. DKO trypanosomes show reduced sensitivity to these inhibitors ranging from twofold for trimetrexate to >10 000-fold for raltitrexed. These data demonstrate that DHFR–TS is essential for parasite survival and represents a promising target for drug discovery.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2008.06305.x
PMCID: PMC2610392  PMID: 18557814
5.  Structure and reactivity of Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase: inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate 
Molecular Microbiology  2006;61(6):1457-1468.
The protozoan Trypanosoma brucei has a functional pteridine reductase (TbPTR1), an NADPH-dependent short-chain reductase that participates in the salvage of pterins, which are essential for parasite growth. PTR1 displays broad-spectrum activity with pterins and folates, provides a metabolic bypass for inhibition of the trypanosomatid dihydrofolate reductase and therefore compromises the use of antifolates for treatment of trypanosomiasis. Catalytic properties of recombinant TbPTR1 and inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate have been characterized and the crystal structure of the ternary complex with cofactor NADP+ and the inhibitor determined at 2.2 Å resolution. This enzyme shares 50% amino acid sequence identity with Leishmania major PTR1 (LmPTR1) and comparisons show that the architecture of the cofactor binding site, and the catalytic centre are highly conserved, as are most interactions with the inhibitor. However, specific amino acid differences, in particular the placement of Trp221 at the side of the active site, and adjustment of the β6-α6 loop and α6 helix at one side of the substrate-binding cleft significantly reduce the size of the substrate binding site of TbPTR1 and alter the chemical properties compared with LmPTR1. A reactive Cys168, within the active site cleft, in conjunction with the C-terminus carboxyl group and His267 of a partner subunit forms a triad similar to the catalytic component of cysteine proteases. TbPTR1 therefore offers novel structural features to exploit in the search for inhibitors of therapeutic value against African trypanosomiasis.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05332.x
PMCID: PMC1618733  PMID: 16968221
6.  Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase 1 is essential for survival in vitro and for virulence in mice 
Molecular Microbiology  2010;77(3):658-671.
Gene knockout and knockdown methods were used to examine essentiality of pteridine reductase (PTR1) in pterin metabolism in the African trypanosome. Attempts to generate PTR1 null mutants in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei proved unsuccessful; despite integration of drug selectable markers at the target locus, the gene for PTR1 was either retained at the same locus or elsewhere in the genome. However, RNA interference (RNAi) resulted in complete knockdown of endogenous protein after 48 h, followed by cell death after 4 days. This lethal phenotype was reversed by expression of enzymatically active Leishmania major PTR1 in RNAi lines (oeRNAi) or by addition of tetrahydrobiopterin to cultures. Loss of PTR1 was associated with gross morphological changes due to a defect in cytokinesis, resulting in cells with multiple nuclei and kinetoplasts, as well as multiple detached flagella. Electron microscopy also revealed increased numbers of glycosomes, while immunofluorescence microscopy showed increased and more diffuse staining for glycosomal matrix enzymes, indicative of mis-localisation to the cytosol. Mis-localisation was confirmed by digitonin fractionation experiments. RNAi cell lines were markedly less virulent than wild-type parasites in mice and virulence was restored in the oeRNAi line. Thus, PTR1 may be a drug target for human African trypanosomiasis.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07236.x
PMCID: PMC2916222  PMID: 20545846
7.  Trypanosoma brucei (UMP synthase null mutants) are avirulent in mice, but recover virulence upon prolonged culture in vitro while retaining pyrimidine auxotrophy 
Molecular Microbiology  2013;90(2):443-455.
African trypanosomes are capable of both de novo synthesis and salvage of pyrimidines. The last two steps in de novo synthesis are catalysed by UMP synthase (UMPS) – a bifunctional enzyme comprising orotate phosphoribosyl transferase (OPRT) and orotidine monophosphate decarboxylase (OMPDC). To investigate the essentiality of pyrimidine biosynthesis in Trypanosoma brucei, we generated a umps double knockout (DKO) line by gene replacement. The DKO was unable to grow in pyrimidine-depleted medium in vitro, unless supplemented with uracil, uridine, deoxyuridine or UMP. DKO parasites were completely resistant to 5-fluoroorotate and hypersensitive to 5-fluorouracil, consistent with loss of UMPS, but remained sensitive to pyrazofurin indicating that, unlike mammalian cells, the primary target of pyrazofurin is not OMPDC. The null mutant was unable to infect mice indicating that salvage of host pyrimidines is insufficient to support growth. However, following prolonged culture in vitro, parasites regained virulence in mice despite retaining pyrimidine auxotrophy. Unlike the wild-type, both pyrimidine auxotrophs secreted substantial quantities of orotate, significantly higher in the virulent DKO line. We propose that this may be responsible for the recovery of virulence in mice, due to host metabolism converting orotate to uridine, thereby bypassing the loss of UMPS in the parasite.
doi:10.1111/mmi.12376
PMCID: PMC3868941  PMID: 23980694

Results 1-7 (7)