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3.  Depletion of UDP-Glucose and UDP-Galactose Using a Degron System Leads to Growth Cessation of Leishmania major 
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases  2015;9(11):e0004205.
Interconversion of UDP-glucose (UDP-Glc) and UDP-galactose (UDP-Gal) by the UDP-Glc 4´-epimerase intimately connects the biosynthesis of these two nucleotide sugars. Their de novo biosynthesis involves transformation of glucose-6-phosphate into glucose-1-phosphate by the phosphoglucomutase and subsequent activation into UDP-Glc by the specific UDP-Glc pyrophosphorylase (UGP). Besides UGP, Leishmania parasites express an uncommon UDP-sugar pyrophosphorylase (USP) able to activate both galactose-1-phosphate and glucose-1-phosphate in vitro. Targeted gene deletion of UGP alone was previously shown to principally affect expression of lipophosphoglycan, resulting in a reduced virulence. Since our attempts to delete both UGP and USP failed, deletion of UGP was combined with conditional destabilisation of USP to control the biosynthesis of UDP-Glc and UDP-Gal. Stabilisation of the enzyme produced by a single USP allele was sufficient to maintain the steady-state pools of these two nucleotide sugars and preserve almost normal glycoinositolphospholipids galactosylation, but at the apparent expense of lipophosphoglycan biosynthesis. However, under destabilising conditions, the absence of both UGP and USP resulted in depletion of UDP-Glc and UDP-Gal and led to growth cessation and cell death, suggesting that either or both of these metabolites is/are essential.
Author Summary
Leishmaniases are a set of tropical and sub-tropical diseases caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania. They affect about 12 million people and cause a high morbidity. Since treatments against all forms of leishmaniasis are limited in number and efficacy, many efforts are made to identify potential drug targets and develop new therapies. Although considerable progress in genetic manipulation of Leishmania parasites have been made, it remains difficult to study molecules or metabolic pathways essential for parasite viability and growth. In the present work, we used a combination of gene deletion and conditional protein destabilization to demonstrate that biosynthesis of the nucleotide sugar UDP-glucose and its derivative UDP-galactose is essential for parasite growth. Addition of a specific ligand to the culture medium of the engineered parasite protected the targeted enzyme from degradation and enabled cell growth and viability. However, removal of the stabilizing compound led to depletion of UDP-glucose and UDP-galactose, growth arrest and cell death. This work thus opens a new possibility for the study of essential proteins.
PMCID: PMC4631452  PMID: 26529232
4.  Evaluation of the Diagnostic Accuracy of Prototype Rapid Tests for Human African Trypanosomiasis 
Diagnosis of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) remains a challenge both for active screening, which is critical in control of the disease, and in the point-of-care scenario where early and accurate diagnosis is essential. Recently, the first field deployment of a lateral flow rapid diagnostic test (RDT) for HAT, “SD BIOLINE HAT” has taken place. In this study, we evaluated the performance of “SD BIOLINE HAT” and two new prototype RDTs.
Methodology/Principal Findings
The performance of “SD BIOLINE HAT” and 2 prototype RDTs was tested using archived plasma from 250 Trypanosoma brucei gambiense patients, and 250 endemic controls. As well as comparison of the sensitivity and specificity of each device, the performance of individual antigens was assessed and the hypothetical performance of novel antigen combinations extrapolated. Neither of the prototype devices were inferior in sensitivity or specificity to “SD BIOLINE HAT” (sensitivity 0.82±0.01, specificity 0.97±0.01, 95% CI) at the 5% margins, while one of the devices (BBI) had significantly superior sensitivity (0.88±0.03). Analysis of the performance of individual antigens was used to model new antigen combinations to be explored in development of the next generation of HAT RDTs. The modelling showed that an RDT using two recombinant antigens (rLiTat1.5 and rISG65) would give a performance similar to the best devices in this study, and would also offer the most robust performance under deteriorating field conditions.
Both “SD BIOLINE HAT” and the prototype devices performed comparably well to one another and also to the published performance range of the card agglutination test for trypanosomiasis in sensitivity and specificity. The performance of individual antigens enabled us to predict that an all-recombinant antigen RDT can be developed with an accuracy equivalent to “ SD BIOLINE HAT.” Such an RDT would have advantages in simplified manufacture, lower unit cost and assured reproducibility.
Author Summary
The most prevalent species of trypanosome causing human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, presents a diagnostic challenge. While early diagnosis is essential for effective treatment and also to control transmission, symptoms are non-specific and parasitological diagnosis is laborious and technically difficult. Screening for HAT suspects has until now been done using the card agglutination test for trypanosomiasis (CATT), which requires a cold chain and equipment, making it difficult to deploy. Thus there is an urgent need for sensitive point of care diagnostic tests that are suitable for use in rural areas in terms of stability, simplicity and cost. We describe the evaluation of 3 rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) for HAT based on lateral flow devices that detect antibodies against defined parasite antigens in blood samples. We demonstrate that the SD BIOLINE HAT RDT currently being deployed in HAT endemic regions, as well as two new prototype devices, are accurate in screening for HAT. By analysing the sensitivity of each of the antigens used in the devices tested, we predict that a highly sensitive RDT based on recombinant antigens can be developed. An all-recombinant antigen RDT offers significant benefits in manufacturing reproducibility and cost, and would dramatically simplify HAT diagnosis.
PMCID: PMC4270746  PMID: 25521120
5.  TrypanoCyc: a community-led biochemical pathways database for Trypanosoma brucei 
Nucleic Acids Research  2014;43(Database issue):D637-D644.
The metabolic network of a cell represents the catabolic and anabolic reactions that interconvert small molecules (metabolites) through the activity of enzymes, transporters and non-catalyzed chemical reactions. Our understanding of individual metabolic networks is increasing as we learn more about the enzymes that are active in particular cells under particular conditions and as technologies advance to allow detailed measurements of the cellular metabolome. Metabolic network databases are of increasing importance in allowing us to contextualise data sets emerging from transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic experiments. Here we present a dynamic database, TrypanoCyc (, which describes the generic and condition-specific metabolic network of Trypanosoma brucei, a parasitic protozoan responsible for human and animal African trypanosomiasis. In addition to enabling navigation through the BioCyc-based TrypanoCyc interface, we have also implemented a network-based representation of the information through MetExplore, yielding a novel environment in which to visualise the metabolism of this important parasite.
PMCID: PMC4384016  PMID: 25300491
6.  Identification of sVSG117 as an Immunodiagnostic Antigen and Evaluation of a Dual-Antigen Lateral Flow Test for the Diagnosis of Human African Trypanosomiasis 
The diagnosis of human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense relies mainly on the Card Agglutination Test for Trypanosomiasis (CATT). There is no immunodiagnostic for HAT caused by T. b. rhodesiense. Our principle aim was to develop a prototype lateral flow test that might be an improvement on CATT.
Methodology/Principle Findings
Pools of infection and control sera were screened against four different soluble form variant surface glycoproteins (sVSGs) by ELISA and one, sVSG117, showed particularly strong immunoreactivity to pooled infection sera. Using individual sera, sVSG117 was shown to be able to discriminate between T. b. gambiense infection and control sera by both ELISA and lateral flow test. The sVSG117 antigen was subsequently used with a previously described recombinant diagnostic antigen, rISG65, to create a dual-antigen lateral flow test prototype. The latter was used blind in a virtual field trial of 431 randomized infection and control sera from the WHO HAT Specimen Biobank.
In the virtual field trial, using two positive antigen bands as the criterion for infection, the sVSG117 and rISG65 dual-antigen lateral flow test prototype showed a sensitivity of 97.3% (95% CI: 93.3 to 99.2) and a specificity of 83.3% (95% CI: 76.4 to 88.9) for the detection of T. b. gambiense infections. The device was not as good for detecting T. b. rhodesiense infections using two positive antigen bands as the criterion for infection, with a sensitivity of 58.9% (95% CI: 44.9 to 71.9) and specificity of 97.3% (95% CI: 90.7 to 99.7). However, using one or both positive antigen band(s) as the criterion for T. b. rhodesiense infection improved the sensitivity to 83.9% (95% CI: 71.7 to 92.4) with a specificity of 85.3% (95% CI: 75.3 to 92.4). These results encourage further development of the dual-antigen device for clinical use.
Author Summary
Human African Trypanosomiasis (HAT) is caused by infection with Trypanosoma brucei gambiense or T. b. rhodesiense. The diagnosis of T. b. gambiense infections currently relies primarily on a Card Agglutination Test for Trypanosomiasis (CATT), which has acknowledged limitations, and there is no simple test for T. b. rhodesiense infection. Our overall aim is to produce a simple lateral flow test device with a similar or better sensitivity and specificity than CATT but with better stability and ease of use at point of care. In this study, we identified a particular variant surface glycoprotein, sVSG117, with good diagnostic potential and combined it with a previously identified recombinant diagnostic antigen, rISG65, to produce a prototype dual-antigen lateral flow test. We performed a virtual field trial by testing the device blind with 431 randomized serum samples provided by the WHO HAT Specimen Biobank. The results show that, although the prototype lateral flow test is un-optimized, it was able to diagnose T. b. gambiense HAT with a sensitivity and specificity of 97.3% and 83.3% and T. b. rhodesiense HAT with a sensitivity and specificity of 83.9% and 85.3%.
PMCID: PMC4102454  PMID: 25033401
7.  Proteomic Selection of Immunodiagnostic Antigens for Trypanosoma congolense 
Animal African Trypanosomosis (AAT) presents a severe problem for agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa. It is caused by several trypanosome species and current means of diagnosis are expensive and impractical for field use. Our aim was to discover antigens for the detection of antibodies to Trypanosoma congolense, one of the main causative agents of AAT. We took a proteomic approach to identify potential immunodiagnostic parasite protein antigens. One hundred and thirteen proteins were identified which were selectively recognized by infected cattle sera. These were assessed for likelihood of recombinant protein expression in E. coli and fifteen were successfully expressed and assessed for their immunodiagnostic potential by ELISA using pooled pre- and post-infection cattle sera. Three proteins, members of the invariant surface glycoprotein (ISG) family, performed favorably and were then assessed using individual cattle sera. One antigen, Tc38630, evaluated blind with 77 randomized cattle sera in an ELISA assay gave sensitivity and specificity performances of 87.2% and 97.4%, respectively. Cattle immunoreactivity to this antigen diminished significantly following drug-cure, a feature helpful for monitoring the efficacy of drug treatment.
Author Summary
Animal African Trypanosomosis (AAT) is a set of diseases whereby animals are infected with single-cell parasites that replicate in their bloodstream. The disease in cattle results in weight-loss and death, and AAT is a significant veterinary problem for sub-Saharan Africa. One of the principal trypanosome species responsible for AAT in cattle is Trypanosoma congolense and, although there are drug-treatments for these infections, current diagnostic methods are impractical for field use. Our aim was to discover protein molecules from the parasite to which infected animals make antibodies, to then make these proteins in bacteria and to subsequently demonstrate that they can be used to detect antibodies in cattle serum, thus diagnosing AAT. To discover the diagnostic proteins, we dissolved parasites in a detergent solution and applied them to beads coated with antibodies from infected cattle and to beads coated with antibodies from un-infected cattle. We then compared the proteins bound to each and selected those proteins that were at least 100-fold enriched by the infected cattle antibodies. We refined this list, according to practical and performance considerations, and settled on one protein, called Tc38630. Testing Tc38630 with cattle sera showed that it can detect about nine out of ten AAT infections.
PMCID: PMC4055490  PMID: 24922510
8.  High-Confidence Glycosome Proteome for Procyclic Form Trypanosoma brucei by Epitope-Tag Organelle Enrichment and SILAC Proteomics 
Journal of Proteome Research  2014;13(6):2796-2806.
The glycosome of the pathogenic African trypanosome Trypanosoma brucei is a specialized peroxisome that contains most of the enzymes of glycolysis and several other metabolic and catabolic pathways. The contents and transporters of this membrane-bounded organelle are of considerable interest as potential drug targets. Here we use epitope tagging, magnetic bead enrichment, and SILAC quantitative proteomics to determine a high-confidence glycosome proteome for the procyclic life cycle stage of the parasite using isotope ratios to discriminate glycosomal from mitochondrial and other contaminating proteins. The data confirm the presence of several previously demonstrated and suggested pathways in the organelle and identify previously unanticipated activities, such as protein phosphatases. The implications of the findings are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4052807  PMID: 24792668
Trypanosoma brucei; quantitative proteomics; peroxisome; glycosome
9.  Identification and Functional Characterization of a Highly Divergent N-Acetylglucosaminyltransferase I (TbGnTI) in Trypanosoma brucei 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2014;289(13):9328-9339.
Background: Trypanosoma brucei expresses a highly glycosylated surface coat that is essential for parasite survival.
Results: The T. brucei gene TbGT11 encodes an N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I, the key enzyme for initiating the biosynthesis of complex N-glycans.
Conclusion: T. brucei GnTI is not a homologue of metazoan GnTI, but a highly divergent enzyme belonging to the β3-glycosyltransferase family.
Significance: Deeper understanding of T. brucei N-glycosylation pathway.
Trypanosoma brucei expresses a diverse repertoire of N-glycans, ranging from oligomannose and paucimannose structures to exceptionally large complex N-glycans. Despite the presence of the latter, no obvious homologues of known β1–4-galactosyltransferase or β1–2- or β1–6-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase genes have been found in the parasite genome. However, we previously reported a family of putative UDP-sugar-dependent glycosyltransferases with similarity to the mammalian β1–3-glycosyltransferase family. Here we characterize one of these genes, TbGT11, and show that it encodes a Golgi apparatus resident UDP-GlcNAc:α3-d-mannoside β1–2-N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase I activity (TbGnTI). The bloodstream-form TbGT11 null mutant exhibited significantly modified protein N-glycans but normal growth in vitro and infectivity to rodents. In contrast to multicellular organisms, where the GnTI reaction is essential for biosynthesis of both complex and hybrid N-glycans, T. brucei TbGT11 null mutants expressed atypical “pseudohybrid” glycans, indicating that TbGnTII activity is not dependent on prior TbGnTI action. Using a functional in vitro assay, we showed that TbGnTI transfers UDP-GlcNAc to biantennary Man3GlcNAc2, but not to triantennary Man5GlcNAc2, which is the preferred substrate for metazoan GnTIs. Sequence alignment reveals that the T. brucei enzyme is far removed from the metazoan GnTI family and suggests that the parasite has adapted the β3-glycosyltransferase family to catalyze β1–2 linkages.
PMCID: PMC3979372  PMID: 24550396
Glycobiology; Glycosyltransferases; Parasite; Post-translational Modification; Trypanosoma brucei; N-Acetylglucosamine
10.  Probing the substrate specificity of Trypanosoma brucei GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase with synthetic substrate analogues† †Electronic supplementary information (ESI) available: Additional experimental procedures and characterisation data for the β-anomers 8 and 10 plus 1H and 13C NMR spectra of all the compounds. See DOI: 10.1039/c3ob42164c Click here for additional data file. Click here for additional data file.  
Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry  2014;12(12):1919-1934.
A series of substrates analogues of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase were tested as substrates and inhibitors of the Trypanosoma brucei enzyme.
A series of synthetic analogues of 1-d-(2-amino-2-deoxy-α-d-glucopyranosyl)-myo-inositol 1-(1,2-di-O-hexadecanoyl-sn-glycerol 3-phosphate), consisting of 7 variants of either the d-myo-inositol, d-GlcpN or the phospholipid components, were prepared and tested as substrates and inhibitors of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase, a genetically validated drug target enzyme responsible for the second step in the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) biosynthetic pathway of Trypanosoma brucei. The d-myo-inositol in the physiological substrate was successfully replaced by cyclohexanediol and is still a substrate for T. brucei GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase. However, this compound became sensitive to the stereochemistry of the glycoside linkage (the β-anomer was neither substrate or inhibitor) and the structure of the lipid moiety (the hexadecyl derivatives were inhibitors). Chemistry was successfully developed to replace the phosphate with a sulphonamide, but the compound was neither a substrate or an inhibitor, confirming the importance of the phosphate for molecular recognition. We also replaced the glucosamine by an acyclic analogue, but this also was inactive, both as a substrate and inhibitor. These findings add significantly to our understanding of substrate and inhibitor binding to the GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase enzyme and will have a bearing on the design of future inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4184461  PMID: 24519084
11.  Probing the substrate specificity of Trypanosoma brucei GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase with synthetic substrate analogues† †Electronic supplementary information (ESI) available: Additional experimental procedures and characterisation data for the β-anomers 8 and 10 plus 1H and 13C NMR spectra of all the compounds. See DOI: 10.1039/c3ob42164c Click here for additional data file. Click here for additional data file.  
Organic & Biomolecular Chemistry  2014;12(12):1919-1934.
A series of substrates analogues of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase were tested as substrates and inhibitors of the Trypanosoma brucei enzyme.
A series of synthetic analogues of 1-d-(2-amino-2-deoxy-α-d-glucopyranosyl)-myo-inositol 1-(1,2-di-O-hexadecanoyl-sn-glycerol 3-phosphate), consisting of 7 variants of either the d-myo-inositol, d-GlcpN or the phospholipid components, were prepared and tested as substrates and inhibitors of GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase, a genetically validated drug target enzyme responsible for the second step in the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) biosynthetic pathway of Trypanosoma brucei. The d-myo-inositol in the physiological substrate was successfully replaced by cyclohexanediol and is still a substrate for T. brucei GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase. However, this compound became sensitive to the stereochemistry of the glycoside linkage (the β-anomer was neither substrate or inhibitor) and the structure of the lipid moiety (the hexadecyl derivatives were inhibitors). Chemistry was successfully developed to replace the phosphate with a sulphonamide, but the compound was neither a substrate or an inhibitor, confirming the importance of the phosphate for molecular recognition. We also replaced the glucosamine by an acyclic analogue, but this also was inactive, both as a substrate and inhibitor. These findings add significantly to our understanding of substrate and inhibitor binding to the GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase enzyme and will have a bearing on the design of future inhibitors.
PMCID: PMC4326964  PMID: 24519084
12.  Exploring the Trypanosoma brucei Hsp83 Potential as a Target for Structure Guided Drug Design 
Human African trypanosomiasis is a neglected parasitic disease that is fatal if untreated. The current drugs available to eliminate the causative agent Trypanosoma brucei have multiple liabilities, including toxicity, increasing problems due to treatment failure and limited efficacy. There are two approaches to discover novel antimicrobial drugs - whole-cell screening and target-based discovery. In the latter case, there is a need to identify and validate novel drug targets in Trypanosoma parasites. The heat shock proteins (Hsp), while best known as cancer targets with a number of drug candidates in clinical development, are a family of emerging targets for infectious diseases. In this paper, we report the exploration of T. brucei Hsp83 – a homolog of human Hsp90 – as a drug target using multiple biophysical and biochemical techniques. Our approach included the characterization of the chemical sensitivity of the parasitic chaperone against a library of known Hsp90 inhibitors by means of differential scanning fluorimetry (DSF). Several compounds identified by this screening procedure were further studied using isothermal titration calorimetry (ITC) and X-ray crystallography, as well as tested in parasite growth inhibitions assays. These experiments led us to the identification of a benzamide derivative compound capable of interacting with TbHsp83 more strongly than with its human homologs and structural rationalization of this selectivity. The results highlight the opportunities created by subtle structural differences to develop new series of compounds to selectively target the Trypanosoma brucei chaperone and effectively kill the sleeping sickness parasite.
Author Summary
Sleeping sickness, or human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), is a deadly neglected disease for which new therapeutic options are badly needed. Current drugs have several liabilities including toxicity and route of administration limiting their efficacy to combat the disease. Our study aimed at validating a potential new drug target against Trypanosoma brucei, its heat shock protein 83 (Hsp83). The chaperone was screened against a repurposed library composed of inhibitors against the human Hsp90. The compounds were assayed in their ability to bind the T. brucei protein and to kill the parasite. Our work has identified selective and high-affinity chemical compounds targeting the parasitic Hsp83. Additionally, structural studies were conducted to explore the observed selectivity of selected inhibitors. Our work has validated T. brucei Hsp83 as a potential target for future drug discovery campaigns. It has also shown the strength of repurposing chemical libraries developed against human proteins, emphasizing the possibility to piggyback current and past drug discovery efforts for other diseases in the search for new drugs against neglected tropical diseases.
PMCID: PMC3798429  PMID: 24147171
13.  A Novel Allosteric Inhibitor of the Uridine Diphosphate N-Acetylglucosamine Pyrophosphorylase from Trypanosoma brucei 
ACS Chemical Biology  2013;8(9):1981-1987.
Uridine diphosphate N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase (UAP) catalyzes the final reaction in the biosynthesis of UDP-GlcNAc, an essential metabolite in many organisms including Trypanosoma brucei, the etiological agent of Human African Trypanosomiasis. High-throughput screening of recombinant T. brucei UAP identified a UTP-competitive inhibitor with selectivity over the human counterpart despite the high level of conservation of active site residues. Biophysical characterization of the UAP enzyme kinetics revealed that the human and trypanosome enzymes both display a strictly ordered bi–bi mechanism, but with the order of substrate binding reversed. Structural characterization of the T. brucei UAP–inhibitor complex revealed that the inhibitor binds at an allosteric site absent in the human homologue that prevents the conformational rearrangement required to bind UTP. The identification of a selective inhibitory allosteric binding site in the parasite enzyme has therapeutic potential.
PMCID: PMC3780468  PMID: 23834437
14.  Genetic and structural validation of Aspergillus fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase as an antifungal target 
Bioscience Reports  2013;33(5):e00063.
Aspergillus fumigatus is the causative agent of IA (invasive aspergillosis) in immunocompromised patients. It possesses a cell wall composed of chitin, glucan and galactomannan, polymeric carbohydrates synthesized by processive glycosyltransferases from intracellular sugar nucleotide donors. Here we demonstrate that A. fumigatus possesses an active AfAGM1 (A. fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase), a key enzyme in the biosynthesis of UDP (uridine diphosphate)–GlcNAc (N-acetylglucosamine), the nucleotide sugar donor for chitin synthesis. A conditional agm1 mutant revealed the gene to be essential. Reduced expression of agm1 resulted in retarded cell growth and altered cell wall ultrastructure and composition. The crystal structure of AfAGM1 revealed an amino acid change in the active site compared with the human enzyme, which could be exploitable in the design of selective inhibitors. AfAGM1 inhibitors were discovered by high-throughput screening, inhibiting the enzyme with IC50s in the low μM range. Together, these data provide a platform for the future development of AfAGM1 inhibitors with antifungal activity.
PMCID: PMC3763426  PMID: 23844980
cell wall; drug target; enzyme; inhibitor; nucleotide sugar; protein structure; AfAGM1, A. fumigatus N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase; AGM1, N-acetylphosphoglucosamine mutase; CaAGM1, Candida albicans AGM1; Fru-6P, fructose 6-phosphate; G6PDH, glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase; GlcNAc, N-acetylglucosamine; GlcNAc-1P, N-acetylglucosamine-1-phosphate; GlcN-6P, glucosamine 6-phosphate; GFA1, glutamine: Fru-6P amidotransferase; GNA1, GlcN-6P acetyltransferase; IA, invasive aspergillosis; MIC, minimum inhibitory concentration; MM, minimal medium; RMSD, root mean square deviation; UAP1, UDP–GlcNAc pyrophosphorylase; UDP, uridine diphosphate
15.  Mnt1p and Mnt2p of Candida albicans Are Partially Redundant α-1,2-Mannosyltransferases That Participate in O-Linked Mannosylation and Are Required for Adhesion and Virulence* 
The Journal of biological chemistry  2004;280(2):1051-1060.
The MNT1 gene of the human fungal pathogen Candida albicans is involved in O-glycosylation of cell wall and secreted proteins and is important for adherence of C. albicans to host surfaces and for virulence. Here we describe the molecular analysis of CaMNT2, a second member of the MNT1-like gene family in C. albicans. Mnt2p also functions in O-glycosylation. Mnt1p and Mnt2p encode partially redundant α-1,2-mannosyltransferases that catalyze the addition of the second and third mannose residues in an O-linked mannose pentamer. Deletion of both copies of MNT1 and MNT2 resulted in reduction in the level of in vitro mannosyltransferase activity and truncation of O-mannan. Both the mnt2Δ and mnt1Δ single mutants were significantly reduced in adherence to human buccal epithelial cells and Matrigel-coated surfaces, indicating a role for O-glycosylated cell wall proteins or O-mannan itself in adhesion to host surfaces. The double mnt1Δmnt2Δ mutant formed aggregates of cells that appeared to be the result of abnormal cell separation. The double mutant was attenuated in virulence, underlining the importance of O-glycosylation in pathogenesis of C. albicans infections.
PMCID: PMC3749086  PMID: 15519997
16.  Protein O-GlcNAcylation Is Required for Fibroblast Growth Factor Signaling in Drosophila 
Science signaling  2011;4(204):ra89.
Glycosylation is essential for growth factor signaling through N-glycosylation of ligands and receptors and the biosynthesis of proteoglycans as co-receptors. Here, we show that protein O-GlcNAcylation is crucial for fibroblast growth factor (FGF) signaling in Drosophila. We found that nesthocker (nst) encodes a phosphoacetylglucosamine mutase and that nst mutant embryos exhibited low amounts of intracellular uridine 5′-diphosphate–N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc), which disrupted protein O-GlcNAcylation. Nst was required for mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling downstream of FGF but not MAPK signaling activated by epidermal growth factor. nst was dispensable for the function of the FGF ligands and the FGF receptor’s extracellular domain but was essential in the signal-receiving cells downstream of the FGF receptor. We identified the adaptor protein Downstream of FGF receptor (Dof), which interacts with the FGF receptor, as the relevant target for O-GlcNAcylation in the FGF pathway, suggesting that protein O-GlcNAcylation of the activated receptor complex is essential for FGF signal transduction.
PMCID: PMC3660836  PMID: 22375049
17.  Probing Elongating and Branching β-d-Galactosyltransferase Activities in Leishmania Parasites by Making Use of Synthetic Phosphoglycans 
ACS chemical biology  2011;6(6):648-657.
Protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania synthesize lipophosphoglycans (LPGs), phosphoglycans and proteophosphoglycans that contain phosphosaccharide repeat units of [−6)Gal(β1-4)Man(α1-OPO3H−]. The repeat structures are assembled by sequential addition of Manα1-OPO3H and β-Gal. In this study, an UDP-Gal-dependent activity was detected in L. donovani and L. major membranes using synthetic phospho-oligosaccharide fragments of lipophosphoglycan as acceptor substrates. Incubation of a microsomal preparation from L. donovani or L. major parasites with synthetic substrates and UDP-[6-3H]Gal resulted in incorporation of radiolabel into these exogenous acceptors. The [3H]galactose-labeled products were characterized by degradation into radioactive, low molecular mass fragments upon hydrolysis with mild acid and treatment with β-galactosidases. We showed that the activity detected with L. donovani membranes is the elongating β-d-galactosyltransferase associated with LPG phosphosaccharide backbone biosynthesis (eGalT). The eGalT activity showed a requirement for the presence of at least one phosphodiester group in the substrate and it was enhanced dramatically when two or three phosphodiester groups were present. Using the same substrates we detected two types of galactosyltransferase activity in L. major membranes: the elongating β-d-galactosyltransferase and a branching β-d-galactosyltransferase (bGalT). Both L. major enzymes required a minimum of one phosphodiester group present in the substrate, but acceptors with two or three phosphodiester groups were found to be superior.
PMCID: PMC3659391  PMID: 21425873
18.  Global Quantitative SILAC Phosphoproteomics Reveals Differential Phosphorylation Is Widespread between the Procyclic and Bloodstream Form Lifecycle Stages of Trypanosoma brucei 
Journal of Proteome Research  2013;12(5):2233-2244.
We report a global quantitative phosphoproteomic study of bloodstream and procyclic form Trypanosoma brucei using SILAC labeling of each lifecycle stage. Phosphopeptide enrichment by SCX and TiO2 led to the identification of a total of 10096 phosphorylation sites on 2551 protein groups and quantified the ratios of 8275 phosphorylation sites between the two lifecycle stages. More than 9300 of these sites (92%) have not previously been reported. Model-based gene enrichment analysis identified over representation of Gene Ontology terms relating to the flagella, protein kinase activity, and the regulation of gene expression. The quantitative data reveal that differential protein phosphorylation is widespread between bloodstream and procyclic form trypanosomes, with significant intraprotein differential phosphorylation. Despite a lack of dedicated tyrosine kinases, 234 phosphotyrosine residues were identified, and these were 3–4 fold over-represented among site changing >10-fold between the two lifecycle stages. A significant proportion of the T. brucei kinome was phosphorylated, with evidence that MAPK pathways are functional in both lifecycle stages. Regulation of gene expression in T. brucei is exclusively post-transcriptional, and the extensive phosphorylation of RNA binding proteins observed may be relevant to the control of mRNA stability in this organism.
PMCID: PMC3646404  PMID: 23485197
phosphorylation; SILAC; Trypanosoma brucei; quantitative proteomics; phosphoproteomics
19.  Proteomic Selection of Immunodiagnostic Antigens for Human African Trypanosomiasis and Generation of a Prototype Lateral Flow Immunodiagnostic Device 
The diagnosis of Human African Trypanosomiasis relies mainly on the Card Agglutination Test for Trypanosomiasis (CATT). While this test is successful, it is acknowledged that there may be room for improvement. Our aim was to develop a prototype lateral flow test based on the detection of antibodies to trypanosome antigens.
Methodology/Principal Findings
We took a non-biased approach to identify potential immunodiagnostic parasite protein antigens. The IgG fractions from the sera from Trypanosoma brucei gambiense infected and control patients were isolated using protein-G affinity chromatography and then immobilized on Sepharose beads. The IgG-beads were incubated with detergent lysates of trypanosomes and those proteins that bound were identified by mass spectrometry-based proteomic methods. This approach provided a list of twenty-four trypanosome proteins that selectively bound to the infection IgG fraction and that might, therefore, be considered as immunodiagnostic antigens. We selected four antigens from this list (ISG64, ISG65, ISG75 and GRESAG4) and performed protein expression trials in E. coli with twelve constructs. Seven soluble recombinant protein products (three for ISG64, two for ISG65 and one each for ISG75 and GRESAG4) were obtained and assessed for their immunodiagnostic potential by ELISA using individual and/or pooled patient sera. The ISG65 and ISG64 construct ELISAs performed well with respect to detecting T. b. gambiense infections, though less well for detecting T. b. rhodesiense infections, and the best performing ISG65 construct was used to develop a prototype lateral flow diagnostic device.
Using a panel of eighty randomized T. b. gambiense infection and control sera, the prototype showed reasonable sensitivity (88%) and specificity (93%) using visual readout in detecting T. b. gambiense infections. These results provide encouragement to further develop and optimize the lateral flow device for clinical use.
Author Summary
Human African Trypanosomiasis is caused by infection with Trypanosoma brucei gambiense or T. b. rhodesiense. Preliminary diagnosis of T. b. gambiense infection relies mainly on a Card Agglutination Test for Trypanosomiasis (CATT), which has acknowledged limitations. New approaches are needed, first to identify new diagnostic antigens and, second, to find a more suitable platform for field-based immunodiagnostic tests. We took an unbiased approach to identify candidate diagnostic antigens by asking which parasite proteins bind to the antibodies of infected patients and not to the antibodies of uninfected patients. From this list of twenty-four candidate antigens, we selected four and from these we selected the one that worked the best in conventional immunodiagnostic tests. This antigen, ISG65, was used to make lateral flow devices, where a small sample of patient serum is added to a pad and thirty minutes later infection can be inferred by simple optical read out. This simple prototype device works as well as the CATT test and may be developed and optimized for clinical use in the field.
PMCID: PMC3584999  PMID: 23469310
20.  Structure of a Complex Phosphoglycan Epitope from gp72 of Trypanosoma cruzi * 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2013;288(16):11093-11105.
Background: Trypanosoma cruzi expresses a highly immunogenic carbohydrate epitope in glycoprotein gp72.
Results: The epitope structure was solved using NMR and mass spectrometry and shown to be a phosphosaccharide, containing l-rhamnopyranose, l-fucopyranose, d-galactopyranose, d-galactofuranose, d-xylopyranose, and N-acetylglucosamine.
Conclusion: This is one of the most complex eukaryotic protein-linked carbohydrate structures yet described.
Significance: gp72 has been implicated in parasite differentiation, flagellar adhesion, and insect infectivity.
The parasitic protozoan organism Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease. The insect vector-dwelling epimastigote form of the organism expresses a low abundance glycoprotein associated with the flagellum adhesion zone, called gp72. The gp72 glycoprotein was first identified with an anti-carbohydrate IgG3 monoclonal antibody called WIC29.26 and has been shown to have an unusual sugar composition. Here, we describe a new way to isolate the WIC29.26 carbohydrate epitope of gp72. Using 1H NMR and mass spectrometry before and after derivatization, we provide an almost complete primary chemical structure for the epitope, which is that of a complex phosphosaccharide: Galfβ1–4Rhapα1–2Fucpα1-4(Galpβ1–3)(Galpα1–2)Xylpβ1–4Xylpβ1–3(Xylpβ1–2Galpα1-4(Galpβ1–3)(Rhapα1–2)Fucpα1–4)GlcNAcp, with phosphate attached to one or other of the two Galp terminal residues and in which all residues are of the d-absolute configuration, except for fucose and rhamnose which are l. Combined with previous data (Haynes, P. A., Ferguson, M. A., and Cross, G. A. (1996) Glycobiology 6, 869–878), we postulate that this complex structure and its variants lacking one or more residues are linked to Thr and Ser residues in gp72 via a phosphodiester linkage (GlcNAcpα1-P-Thr/Ser) and that these units may form phosphosaccharide repeats through GlcNAcpα1-P-Galp linkages. The gp72 glycoprotein is associated with the flagellum adhesion zone on the parasite surface, and its ligation has been implicated in inhibiting parasite differentiation from the epimastigote to the metacyclic trypomastigote stage. The detailed structure of the unique phosphosaccharide component of gp72 reported here provides a template for future biosynthetic and functional studies.
PMCID: PMC3630849  PMID: 23436655
Carbohydrate Glycoprotein; Carbohydrate Structure; Glycoprotein Structure; Glycosylation; Parasitology; Trypanosoma cruzi; Carbohydrate Epitope; Galactofuranose; gp72; Phosphosaccharide
21.  TbGT8 is a bifunctional glycosyltransferase that elaborates N-linked glycans on a protein phosphatase AcP115 and a GPI-anchor modifying glycan in Trypanosoma brucei 
Parasitology International  2014;63(3):513-518.
The procyclic form of Trypanosoma brucei expresses procyclin surface glycoproteins with unusual glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchor side chain structures that contain branched N-acetyllactosamine and lacto-N-biose units. The glycosyltransferase TbGT8 is involved in the synthesis of the branched side chain through its UDP-GlcNAc: βGal β1-3N-acetylglucosaminyltransferase activity. Here, we explored the role of TbGT8 in the mammalian bloodstream form of the parasite with a tetracycline-inducible conditional null T. brucei mutant for TbGT8. Under non-permissive conditions, the mutant showed significantly reduced binding to tomato lectin, which recognizes poly-N-acetyllactosamine-containing glycans. Lectin pull-down assays revealed differences between the wild type and TbGT8 null-mutant T. brucei, notably the absence of a broad protein band with an approximate molecular weight of 110 kDa in the mutant lysate. Proteomic analysis revealed that the band contained several glycoproteins, including the acidic ecto-protein phosphatase AcP115, a stage-specific glycoprotein in the bloodstream form of T. brucei. Western blotting with an anti-AcP115 antibody revealed that AcP115 was approximately 10 kDa smaller in the mutant. Enzymatic de-N-glycosylation demonstrated that the underlying protein cores were the same, suggesting that the 10-kDa difference was due to differences in N-linked glycans. Immunofluorescence microscopy revealed the colocalization of hemagglutinin epitope-tagged TbGT8 and the Golgi-associated protein GRASP. These data suggest that TbGT8 is involved in the construction of complex poly-N-acetyllactosamine-containing type N-linked and GPI-linked glycans in the Golgi of the bloodstream and procyclic parasite forms, respectively.
Graphical abstract
•TbGT8 is involved in N-linked glycan synthesis in the bloodstream form.•AcP115 is a target glycoprotein of TbGT8-dependent glycan processing.•TbGT8 is localized in the Golgi and modified by N-linked glycan(s).
PMCID: PMC4003530  PMID: 24508870
CBB, Coomassie brilliant blue; cKO, conditional double knockout; FP, flagellar pocket and lysosome/endosome system; GlcNAc, N-acetylglucosamine; GPI, glycosylphosphatidylinositol; HA, hemagglutinin epitope; LacNAc, N-acetyllactosamine; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; PNGase, peptide N-glycosidase; VSG, variant surface glycoprotein; Glycosyltransferase; Trypanosoma brucei; N-linked glycan; GPI-anchor; Tomato lectin
22.  5-(4-Hexyl-1H-1,2,3-triazol-1-yl)-2,1,3-benzoxadiazole 
The title compound, C14H17N5O, a 1,2,3-triazole derivative of benzoxadiazole (C14H17N5O), was synthesized via Cu-catal­ysed azide–alkyne cyclo­addition (CuAAC) from the corres­ponding n-octyne and 4-azido­benzoxadiazole. The benz­oxa­diazole and triazole rings show a roughly planar orientation [dihedral angle between the ring planes = 12.18 (5)°]. The alkane chain adopts a zigzag conformation, which deviates from the central triazole ring by 20.89 (6)°. These two torsion angles result in an overall twist to the structure, with a dihedral angle of 32.86 (7)° between the benzoxadiazole group and the hexyl chain. The crystal structure features C—H⋯N hydrogen bonds leading to chains propagating along [2-10] and offset parallel stacking inter­actions of the triazole and benzoxadiazole rings. The centroid of the extended π-system formed by the benzoxadiazole and triazole rings (14 atoms total) was calculated; the centroid–centroid distance was 4.179 Å, interplanar separation was 3.243 Å, and the resulting offset was 2.636 Å.
PMCID: PMC3515233  PMID: 23284453
23.  Fragment screening reveals salicylic hydroxamic acid as an inhibitor of Trypanosoma brucei GPI GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase 
Carbohydrate Research  2014;387(100):54-58.
Graphical abstract
•First non-substrate analogue inhibitor of the trypanosome GPI pathway.•Active against recombinant enzyme and cell-free system.•Low molecular weight and good ligand efficiency.
The zinc-metalloenzyme GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase is essential for the biosynthesis of mature GPI anchors and has been genetically validated in the bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei, which causes African sleeping sickness. We screened a focused library of zinc-binding fragments and identified salicylic hydroxamic acid as a GlcNAc-PI de-N-acetylase inhibitor with high ligand efficiency. This is the first small molecule inhibitor reported for the trypanosome GPI pathway. Investigating the structure activity relationship revealed that hydroxamic acid and 2-OH are essential for potency, and that substitution is tolerated at the 4- and 5-positions.
PMCID: PMC3991331  PMID: 24589444
GPI; Trypanosoma brucei; Hydroxamic acid; Inhibitor; N-Deacetylase
24.  Comparative SILAC Proteomic Analysis of Trypanosoma brucei Bloodstream and Procyclic Lifecycle Stages 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(5):e36619.
The protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei has a complex digenetic lifecycle between a mammalian host and an insect vector, and adaption of its proteome between lifecycle stages is essential to its survival and virulence. We have optimized a procedure for growing Trypanosoma brucei procyclic form cells in conditions suitable for stable isotope labeling by amino acids in culture (SILAC) and report a comparative proteomic analysis of cultured procyclic form and bloodstream form T. brucei cells. In total we were able to identify 3959 proteins and quantify SILAC ratios for 3553 proteins with a false discovery rate of 0.01. A large number of proteins (10.6%) are differentially regulated by more the 5-fold between lifecycle stages, including those involved in the parasite surface coat, and in mitochondrial and glycosomal energy metabolism. Our proteomic data is broadly in agreement with transcriptomic studies, but with significantly larger fold changes observed at the protein level than at the mRNA level.
PMCID: PMC3344917  PMID: 22574199
25.  Modeling of the N-Glycosylated Transferrin Receptor Suggests How Transferrin Binding Can Occur within the Surface Coat of Trypanosoma brucei 
PLoS Pathogens  2012;8(4):e1002618.
The transferrin receptor of bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei is a heterodimer encoded by expression site associated genes 6 and 7. This low-abundance glycoprotein with a single glycosylphosphatidylinositol membrane anchor and eight potential N-glycosylation sites is located in the flagellar pocket. The receptor is essential for the parasite, providing its only source of iron by scavenging host transferrin from the bloodstream. Here, we demonstrate that both receptor subunits contain endoglycosidase H-sensitive and endoglycosidase H-resistant N-glycans. Lectin blotting of the purified receptor and structural analysis of the released N-glycans revealed oligomannose and paucimannose structures but, contrary to previous suggestions, no poly-N-acetyllactosamine structures were found. Overlay experiments suggest that the receptor can bind to other trypanosome glycoproteins, which may explain this discrepancy. Nevertheless, these data suggest that a current model, in which poly-N-acetyllactosamine glycans are directly involved in receptor-mediated endocytosis in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei, should be revised. Sequential endoglycosidase H and peptide-N-glycosidase F treatment, followed by tryptic peptide analysis, allowed the mapping of oligomannose and paucimannose structures to four of the receptor N-glycosylation sites. These results are discussed with respect to the current model for protein N-glycosylation in the parasite. Finally, the glycosylation data allowed the creation of a molecular model for the parasite transferrin receptor. This model, when placed in the context of a model for the dense variant surface glycoprotein coat in which it is embedded, suggests that receptor N-glycosylation may play an important role in providing sufficient space for the approach and binding of transferrin to the receptor, without significantly disrupting the continuity of the protective variant surface glycoprotein coat.
Author Summary
The tsetse fly transmitted parasite that causes human African trypanosomiasis, or sleeping sickness, scavenges iron from the bloodstream of the infected individual so that it can live, multiply and ultimately cause disease. To do this, it places a glycoprotein (a protein with carbohydrate chains attached) called the transferrin receptor on its surface to capture circulating human transferrin, an iron transport protein. It then internalizes transferrin receptor/transferrin complex and digests the transferrin part, releasing the iron for its own use. By analyzing the parasite transferrin receptor, we have been able to describe the carbohydrate chains of the transferrin receptor and thus complete a molecular model of this important glycoprotein. We have further built models of how we expect this low abundance glycoprotein will sit in the surface coat of the parasite, which is made of millions of copies of another glycoprotein. The results provide a ‘molecule's eye view’ of how the carbohydrate chains of the transferrin receptor provide the space necessary for the transferrin to bind to it without disrupting the protective coat.
PMCID: PMC3320590  PMID: 22496646

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