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1.  Lipid Metabolism as a Therapeutic Target 
PMCID: PMC3332162  PMID: 22567284
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  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
13.  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
14.  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
15.  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
16.  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
17.  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
18.  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
19.  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
20.  Structure-Based Design of Pteridine Reductase Inhibitors Targeting African Sleeping Sickness and the Leishmaniases† 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2009;53(1):221-229.
Pteridine reductase (PTR1) is a target for drug development against Trypanosoma and Leishmania species, parasites that cause serious tropical diseases and for which therapies are inadequate. We adopted a structure-based approach to the design of novel PTR1 inhibitors based on three molecular scaffolds. A series of compounds, most newly synthesized, were identified as inhibitors with PTR1-species specific properties explained by structural differences between the T. brucei and L. major enzymes. The most potent inhibitors target T. brucei PTR1, and two compounds displayed antiparasite activity against the bloodstream form of the parasite. PTR1 contributes to antifolate drug resistance by providing a molecular bypass of dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) inhibition. Therefore, combining PTR1 and DHFR inhibitors might improve therapeutic efficacy. We tested two new compounds with known DHFR inhibitors. A synergistic effect was observed for one particular combination highlighting the potential of such an approach for treatment of African sleeping sickness.
PMCID: PMC2804273  PMID: 19916554
21.  Blocking Variant Surface Glycoprotein Synthesis in Trypanosoma brucei Triggers a General Arrest in Translation Initiation 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(10):e7532.
The African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei is covered with a dense layer of Variant Surface Glycoprotein (VSG), which protects it from lysis by host complement via the alternative pathway in the mammalian bloodstream. Blocking VSG synthesis by the induction of VSG RNAi triggers an unusually precise precytokinesis cell-cycle arrest.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we characterise the cells arrested after the induction of VSG RNAi. We were able to rescue the VSG221 RNAi induced cell-cycle arrest through expression of a second different VSG (VSG117 which is not recognised by the VSG221 RNAi) from the VSG221 expression site. Metabolic labeling of the arrested cells showed that blocking VSG synthesis triggered a global translation arrest, with total protein synthesis reduced to less than 1–4% normal levels within 24 hours of induction of VSG RNAi. Analysis by electron microscopy showed that the translation arrest was coupled with rapid disassociation of ribosomes from the endoplasmic reticulum. Polysome analysis showed a drastic decrease in polysomes in the arrested cells. No major changes were found in levels of transcription, total RNA transcript levels or global amino acid concentrations in the arrested cells.
The cell-cycle arrest phenotype triggered by the induction of VSG221 RNAi is not caused by siRNA toxicity, as this arrest can be alleviated if a second different VSG is inserted downstream of the active VSG221 expression site promoter. Analysis of polysomes in the stalled cells showed that the translation arrest is mediated at the level of translation initiation rather than elongation. The cell-cycle arrest induced in the presence of a VSG synthesis block is reversible, suggesting that VSG synthesis and/or trafficking to the cell surface could be monitored during the cell-cycle as part of a specific cell-cycle checkpoint.
PMCID: PMC2762041  PMID: 19855834
22.  Genome-wide expression profiling of in vivo-derived bloodstream parasite stages and dynamic analysis of mRNA alterations during synchronous differentiation in Trypanosoma brucei 
BMC Genomics  2009;10:427.
Trypanosomes undergo extensive developmental changes during their complex life cycle. Crucial among these is the transition between slender and stumpy bloodstream forms and, thereafter, the differentiation from stumpy to tsetse-midgut procyclic forms. These developmental events are highly regulated, temporally reproducible and accompanied by expression changes mediated almost exclusively at the post-transcriptional level.
In this study we have examined, by whole-genome microarray analysis, the mRNA abundance of genes in slender and stumpy forms of T.brucei AnTat1.1 cells, and also during their synchronous differentiation to procyclic forms. In total, five biological replicates representing the differentiation of matched parasite populations derived from five individual mouse infections were assayed, with RNAs being derived at key biological time points during the time course of their synchronous differentiation to procyclic forms. Importantly, the biological context of these mRNA profiles was established by assaying the coincident cellular events in each population (surface antigen exchange, morphological restructuring, cell cycle re-entry), thereby linking the observed gene expression changes to the well-established framework of trypanosome differentiation.
Using stringent statistical analysis and validation of the derived profiles against experimentally-predicted gene expression and phenotypic changes, we have established the profile of regulated gene expression during these important life-cycle transitions. The highly synchronous nature of differentiation between stumpy and procyclic forms also means that these studies of mRNA profiles are directly relevant to the changes in mRNA abundance within individual cells during this well-characterised developmental transition.
PMCID: PMC2753553  PMID: 19747379
23.  Biochemical characterization of the initial steps of the Kennedy pathway in Trypanosoma brucei: the ethanolamine and choline kinases 
Biochemical Journal  2008;415(Pt 1):135-144.
Ethanolamine and choline are major components of the trypanosome membrane phospholipids, in the form of GPEtn (glycerophosphoethanolamine) and GPCho (glycerophosphocholine). Ethanolamine is also found as an integral component of the GPI (glycosylphosphatidylinositol) anchor that is required for membrane attachment of cell-surface proteins, most notably the variant-surface glycoproteins. The de novo synthesis of GPEtn and GPCho starts with the generation of phosphoethanolamine and phosphocholine by ethanolamine and choline kinases via the Kennedy pathway. Database mining revealed two putative C/EKs (choline/ethanolamine kinases) in the Trypanosoma brucei genome, which were cloned, overexpressed, purified and characterized. TbEK1 (T. brucei ethanolamine kinase 1) was shown to be catalytically active as an ethanolamine-specific kinase, i.e. it had no choline kinase activity. The Km values for ethanolamine and ATP were found to be 18.4±0.9 and 219±29 μM respectively. TbC/EK2 (T. brucei choline/ethanolamine kinase 2), on the other hand, was found to be able to phosphorylate both ethanolamine and choline, even though choline was the preferred substrate, with a Km 80 times lower than that of ethanolamine. The Km values for choline, ethanolamine and ATP were 31.4±2.6 μM, 2.56±0.31 mM and 20.6±1.96 μM respectively. Further substrate specificity analysis revealed that both TbEK1 and TbC/EK2 were able to tolerate various modifications at the amino group, with the exception of a quaternary amine for TbEK1 (choline) and a primary amine for TbC/EK2 (ethanolamine). Both enzymes recognized analogues with substituents on C-2, but substitutions on C-1 and elongations of the carbon chain were not well tolerated.
PMCID: PMC2552378  PMID: 18489261
choline kinase; ethanolamine kinase; Kennedy pathway; Trypanosoma brucei; C/EK, choline/ethanolamine kinase; EK, ethanolamine kinase; GPCho, glycerophosphocholine; GPEtn, glycerophosphoethanolamine; GPI, glycosylphosphatidylinositol; GPSer, glycerophosphoserine; HPTLC, high-performance TLC; LB, Luria–Bertani; MALDI, matrix-assisted laser-desorption ionization; ORF, open reading frame; PtdCho, phosphotidylcholine; PtdEtn, phosphatidylethanolamine; RT, reverse transcription; Tb, Trypanosome brucei; TEV, tobacco etch virus; TOF, time-of-flight; UTR, untranslated region; VSG, variant-surface glycoprotein
24.  Apicoplast Lipoic Acid Protein Ligase B Is Not Essential for Plasmodium falciparum 
PLoS Pathogens  2007;3(12):e189.
Lipoic acid (LA) is an essential cofactor of α-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes (KADHs) and the glycine cleavage system. In Plasmodium, LA is attached to the KADHs by organelle-specific lipoylation pathways. Biosynthesis of LA exclusively occurs in the apicoplast, comprising octanoyl-[acyl carrier protein]: protein N-octanoyltransferase (LipB) and LA synthase. Salvage of LA is mitochondrial and scavenged LA is ligated to the KADHs by LA protein ligase 1 (LplA1). Both pathways are entirely independent, suggesting that both are likely to be essential for parasite survival. However, disruption of the LipB gene did not negatively affect parasite growth despite a drastic loss of LA (>90%). Surprisingly, the sole, apicoplast-located pyruvate dehydrogenase still showed lipoylation, suggesting that an alternative lipoylation pathway exists in this organelle. We provide evidence that this residual lipoylation is attributable to the dual targeted, functional lipoate protein ligase 2 (LplA2). Localisation studies show that LplA2 is present in both mitochondrion and apicoplast suggesting redundancy between the lipoic acid protein ligases in the erythrocytic stages of P. falciparum.
Author Summary
Plasmodium falciparum is the causative agent of severe malaria. The parasites possess two organelles that are integral to their metabolism—the mitochondrion and the apicoplast, a remnant plastid. Both organelles contain enzymes that depend on the attachment of the cofactor lipoic acid for their catalytic activity. These are the α-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes and the glycine cleavage system (GCS). The pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) is solely found in the apicoplast of the parasites whereas α-keto glutarate and branched chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase as well as the GCS are mitochondrial. Both organelles possess specific and independent mechanisms that guarantee the posttranslational lipoylation of these enzyme complexes. In this study we show that the apicoplast located lipoic acid protein ligase, octanoyl-[acyl carrier protein]: protein N-octanoyltransferase (LipB), is not essential for parasite survival by disrupting the LipB gene locus. Despite a drastic loss of total lipoic acid, the parasites progress through their intraerythrocytic development unperturbed although the apicoplast-located PDH shows a reduced level of lipoylation. This phenotype is attributable to the presence of the recently described lipoic acid protein ligase 2, LplA2, which we show to be dually targeted to mitochondrion and apicoplast.
PMCID: PMC2134950  PMID: 18069893
25.  Structure, substrate recognition and reactivity of Leishmania major mevalonate kinase 
Isoprenoid precursor synthesis via the mevalonate route in humans and pathogenic trypanosomatids is an important metabolic pathway. There is however, only limited information available on the structure and reactivity of the component enzymes in trypanosomatids. Since isoprenoid biosynthesis is essential for trypanosomatid viability and may provide new targets for therapeutic intervention it is important to characterize the pathway components.
Putative mevalonate kinase encoding genes from Leishmania major (LmMK) and Trypanosoma brucei (TbMK) have been cloned, over-expressed in and proteins isolated from procyclic-form T. brucei. A highly sensitive radioactive assay was developed and shows ATP-dependent phosphorylation of mevalonate. Apo and (R)-mevalonate bound crystal structures of LmMK, from a bacterial expression system, have been determined to high resolution providing, for the first time, information concerning binding of mevalonate to an MK. The mevalonate binds in a deep cavity lined by highly conserved residues. His25 is key for binding and for discrimination of (R)- over (S)-mevalonate, with the main chain amide interacting with the C3 hydroxyl group of (R)-mevalonate, and the side chain contributing, together with Val202 and Thr283, to the construction of a hydrophobic binding site for the C3 methyl substituent. The C5 hydroxyl, where phosphorylation occurs, points towards catalytic residues, Lys18 and Asp155. The activity of LmMK was significantly reduced compared to MK from other species and we were unable to obtain ATP-binding data. Comparisons with the rat MK:ATP complex were used to investigate how this substrate might bind. In LmMK, helix α2 and the preceding polypeptide adopt a conformation, not seen in related kinase structures, impeding access to the nucleotide triphosphate binding site suggesting that a conformational rearrangement is required to allow ATP binding.
Our new structural information, consistent with data on homologous enzymes allows a detailed description of how mevalonate is recognized and positioned for catalysis in MK. The mevalonate-binding site is highly conserved yet the ATP-binding site is structurally distinct in LmMK. We are unable to provide a definitive explanation for the low activity of recombinant protein isolated from a bacterial expression system compared to material isolated from procyclic-form Trypanosoma brucei.
PMCID: PMC1851959  PMID: 17397541

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