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1.  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
2.  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
3.  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
4.  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
5.  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
6.  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
7.  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
8.  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
9.  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
10.  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
11.  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
12.  Increased Risk of Vincristine Neurotoxicity Associated with Low CYP3A5 Expression Genotype in Children with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia 
Pediatric blood & cancer  2010;56(3):361-367.
This study evaluates the relationship between cytochrome P450 (CYP) 3A5 genotype and vincristine-induced peripheral neuropathy in children with precursor B cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia (preB ALL). We have shown in vitro that vincristine is metabolized significantly more efficiently by CYP3A5 than by CYP3A4. We also found that vincristine neurotoxicity is less common in African-Americans (70% express CYP3A5) than in Caucasians. We test the hypothesis that CYP3A5 expressers experience less vincristine neuropathy than do CYP3A5 non-expressers.
This study of pharmacogenetics of vincristine neuropathy in children with preB ALL was completed at Indiana University Simon Cancer Center. Whole blood for DNA extraction and genotyping was collected as well as plasma from a single time-point for analysis of vincristine and primary metabolite (M1) concentrations. Vincristine neuropathy was captured via chart review and graded per the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events, version 3.0.
89% of CYP3A5 expressers experienced neurotoxicity versus 100% of non-expressers (p=0.03). The proportion of treatment months with neurotoxicity was significantly different between the expressers and non-expressers (16% vs. 27%, p=0.0007). Limited pharmacokinetic data suggest different rates of vincristine metabolism between CYP3A5 genotype groups with higher primary metabolite (M1) plasma concentrations (p=0.0004) and lower metabolic ratios ([vincristine]/[M1]) (p=0.036) in the CYP3A5 expressers compared to the CYP3A5 non-expressers. M1 concentration was also inversely related to severity of neuropathy (p=0.0316).
In children with preB ALL, CYP3A5 expressers experience less vincristine-induced peripheral neuropathy, produce more M1, and have lower metabolic ratios compared to CYP3A5 non-expressers.
PMCID: PMC3020258  PMID: 21225912
vincristine; pharmacogenetics; acute lymphoblastic leukemia; peripheral neuropathy
13.  Discovery of a Novel Class of Orally Active Trypanocidal N-Myristoyltransferase Inhibitors 
Journal of Medicinal Chemistry  2011;55(1):140-152.
N-Myristoyltransferase (NMT) represents a promising drug target for human African trypanosomiasis (HAT), which is caused by the parasitic protozoa Trypanosoma brucei. We report the optimization of a high throughput screening hit (1) to give a lead molecule DDD85646 (63), which has potent activity against the enzyme (IC50 = 2 nM) and T. brucei (EC50 = 2 nM) in culture. The compound has good oral pharmacokinetics and cures rodent models of peripheral HAT infection. This compound provides an excellent tool for validation of T. brucei NMT as a drug target for HAT as well as a valuable lead for further optimization.
PMCID: PMC3256935  PMID: 22148754
14.  Deep Evolutionary Conservation of an Intramolecular Protein Kinase Activation Mechanism 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(1):e29702.
DYRK-family kinases employ an intramolecular mechanism to autophosphorylate a critical tyrosine residue in the activation loop. Once phosphorylated, DYRKs lose tyrosine kinase activity and function as serine/threonine kinases. DYRKs have been characterized in organisms from yeast to human; however, all entities belong to the Unikont supergroup, only one of five eukaryotic supergroups. To assess the evolutionary age and conservation of the DYRK intramolecular kinase-activation mechanism, we surveyed 21 genomes representing four of the five eukaryotic supergroups for the presence of DYRKs. We also analyzed the activation mechanism of the sole DYRK (class 2 DYRK) present in Trypanosoma brucei (TbDYRK2), a member of the excavate supergroup and separated from Drosophila by ∼850 million years. Bioinformatics showed the DYRKs clustering into five known subfamilies, class 1, class 2, Yaks, HIPKs and Prp4s. Only class 2 DYRKs were present in all four supergroups. These diverse class 2 DYRKs also exhibited conservation of N-terminal NAPA regions located outside of the kinase domain, and were shown to have an essential role in activation loop autophosphorylation of Drosophila DmDYRK2. Class 2 TbDYRK2 required the activation loop tyrosine conserved in other DYRKs, the NAPA regions were critical for this autophosphorylation event, and the NAPA-regions of Trypanosoma and human DYRK2 complemented autophosphorylation by the kinase domain of DmDYRK2 in trans. Finally, sequential deletion analysis was used to further define the minimal region required for trans-complementation. Our analysis provides strong evidence that class 2 DYRKs were present in the primordial or root eukaryote, and suggest this subgroup may be the oldest, founding member of the DYRK family. The conservation of activation loop autophosphorylation demonstrates that kinase self-activation mechanisms are also primitive.
PMCID: PMC3250476  PMID: 22235329
15.  Chemical Structure of Trichomonas vaginalis Surface Lipoglycan 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2011;286(47):40494-40508.
Background: Trichomonas vaginalis lipoglycan (TvLG) mediates interactions between the parasite and human host.
Results: TvLG is composed of a polyrhamnose backbone with branches of poly-N-acetyllactosamine that are involved in attachment to host epithelium.
Conclusion: TvLG has a unique structure among solved parasite glycans.
Significance: This work provides a template to analyze TvLG from T. vaginalis with different binding properties.
The extracellular parasite Trichomonas vaginalis contains a surface glycoconjugate that appears to mediate parasite-host cell interaction via binding to human galectin-1. This glycoconjugate also elicits cytokine production from human vaginal epithelial cells, implicating its role in modulation of host immune responses. We have analyzed the structure of this glycoconjugate, previously described to contain the sugars rhamnose (Rha), N-acetylglucosamine (GlcNAc), galactose (Gal), xylose (Xyl), N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc), and glucose (Glc), using gas chromatograph mass spectrometry (GC-MS), matrix-assisted laser desorption/ionization time of flight mass spectrometry (MALDI-TOF), electrospray MS/MS, and nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR), combined with chemical and enzymatic digestions. Our data reveal a complex structure, named T. vaginalis lipoglycan (TvLG), that differs markedly from Leishmania lipophosphoglycan and Entamoeba lipopeptidophosphoglycan and is devoid of phosphosaccharide repeats. TvLG is composed of an α1–3 linked polyrhamnose core, where Rha residues are substituted at the 2-position with either β-Xyl or chains of, on average, five N-acetyllactosamine (-3Galβ1–4GlcNAcβ1-) (LacNAc) units and occasionally lacto-N-biose (-3Galβ1-3GlcNAcβ1-) (LNB). These chains are themselves periodically substituted at the Gal residues with Xyl-Rha. These structural analyses led us to test the role of the poly-LacNAc/LNB chains in parasite binding to host cells. We found that reduction of poly-LacNAc/LNB chains decreased the ability of TvLG to compete parasite binding to host cells. In summary, our data provide a new model for the structure of TvLG, composed of a polyrhamnose backbone with branches of Xyl and poly-LacNAc/LNB. Furthermore, the poly-LacNAc side chains are shown to be involved in parasite-host cell interaction.
PMCID: PMC3220458  PMID: 21900246
Adhesion; Glycoconjugate; Glycolipid Structure; Host-Pathogen Interactions; Pathogenesis; Trichomonas; TvLG
16.  Characterization, Localization, Essentiality, and High-Resolution Crystal Structure of Glucosamine 6-Phosphate N-Acetyltransferase from Trypanosoma brucei ▿ ‡ § 
Eukaryotic Cell  2011;10(7):985-997.
A gene predicted to encode Trypanosoma brucei glucosamine 6-phosphate N-acetyltransferase (TbGNA1; EC was cloned and expressed in Escherichia coli. The recombinant protein was enzymatically active, and its high-resolution crystal structure was obtained at 1.86 Å. Endogenous TbGNA1 protein was localized to the peroxisome-like microbody, the glycosome. A bloodstream-form T. brucei GNA1 conditional null mutant was constructed and shown to be unable to sustain growth in vitro under nonpermissive conditions, demonstrating that there are no metabolic or nutritional routes to UDP-GlcNAc other than via GlcNAc-6-phosphate. Analysis of the protein glycosylation phenotype of the TbGNA1 mutant under nonpermissive conditions revealed that poly-N-acetyllactosamine structures were greatly reduced in the parasite and that the glycosylation profile of the principal parasite surface coat component, the variant surface glycoprotein (VSG), was modified. The significance of results and the potential of TbGNA1 as a novel drug target for African sleeping sickness are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3147419  PMID: 21531872
17.  Impact of genetic background and aging on mesenteric collateral growth capacity in Fischer 344, Brown Norway, and Fischer 344 × Brown Norway hybrid rats 
Available studies indicate that both genetic background and aging influence collateral growth capacity, but it is not known how their combination affects collateral growth. We evaluated collateral growth induced by ileal artery ligation in Fischer 344 (F344), Brown Norway (BN), and the first generation hybrid of F344 × BN (F1) rats available for aging research from the National Institute on Aging. Collateral growth was determined by paired diameter measurements in anesthetized rats immediately and 7 days postligation. In 3-mo-old rats, significant collateral growth occurred only in BN (35% ± 11%, P < 0.001). The endothelial cell number in arterial cross sections was also determined, since this precedes shear-mediated luminal expansion. When compared with the same animal controls, the intimal cell number was increased only in BN rats (92% ± 21%, P < 0.001). The increase in intimal cell number and the degree of collateral luminal expansion in BN rats was not affected by age from 3 to 24 mo. Immunohistochemical studies demonstrated that intimal cell proliferation was much greater in the collaterals of BN than of F1 rats. The remarkable difference between these three strains of rats used in aging research and the lack of an age-related impairment in the BN rats are novel observations. These rat strains mimic clinical observations of interindividual variation in collateral growth capacity and the impact of age on arteriogenesis and should be useful models to investigate the molecular mechanisms responsible for such differences.
PMCID: PMC2859438  PMID: 17906115
strain dependent; endothelial proliferation; macrophage recruitment
18.  Investigation of copper(II) tetrafluoroborate catalysed epoxide opening 
Tetrahedron Letters  2011;52(52):7091-7094.
Graphical abstract
We report the extension of the copper(II) tetrafluoroborate catalysed opening of epoxides with alcohols to include a wider variety of alcohols, a range of solvents and a method to purify the products from the reaction.
PMCID: PMC3314918  PMID: 22505782
Epoxide; Copper(II) tetrafluoroborate; Lewis acid; Alcohols
19.  Transmission of cutaneous leishmaniasis by sand flies is enhanced by regurgitation of fPPG 
Nature  2004;430(6998):463-467.
Sand flies are the exclusive vectors of the protozoan parasite Leishmania1, but the mechanism of transmission by fly bite has not been determined nor incorporated into experimental models of infection. In sand flies with mature Leishmania infections the anterior midgut is blocked by a gel of parasite origin, the promastigote secretory gel (PSG)2,3. Here, we analyse for the first time the inocula from Leishmania mexicana infected Lutzomyia longipalpis sand flies. This revealed the size of the infectious dose, the underlying mechanism of parasite delivery by regurgitation, and the novel contribution made to infection by filamentous proteophosphoglycan (fPPG), a component of PSG found to accompany the parasites during transmission. Collectively, these results have important implications for understanding the relationship between parasite and its vector, the pathology of cutaneous leishmaniasis in humans and also the development of effective vaccines and drugs. These findings emphasise that to fully understand transmission of vector-borne diseases the interaction between all three participants must be considered.
PMCID: PMC2835460  PMID: 15269771
20.  Stoichiometric Quantification of Akt Phosphorylation Using LC-MS/MS 
Journal of Proteome Research  2009;9(2):743-751.
The Ptdlns-3-kinase (PI3-K) signaling pathway plays a vital role in cell survival, proliferation, apoptosis and differentiation in normal cells, as well as in diseases such as cancer and diabetes. Quantification of phospho-Akt is a standard way of assessing the activity of the PI3-K signaling pathway in both cells and tumors. This measurement is traditionally performed semiquantitatively using immunoassays such as Western blot. Here we report an LC-MS method to accurately measure the stoichiometry of Akt phosphorylation in biological samples. The procedure includes immunoprecipitation, gel electrophoresis, in-gel digestion, addition of isotopicaly labeled internal standards and LC-MS/MS. Two proteolytic enzymes, chymotrypsin and trypsin, were used to generate suitable peptide fragments for measuring Thr308 and Ser473 phosphorylation, respectively. The interday imprecision was estimated to be 3.8% and 2.3% for Thr308 and Ser473, respectively. This method has been tested on human T-cells grown in presence and absence of pervanadate and with or without a PI3-K inhibitor and on human glioblastoma cells (U-87 MG) grown in presence and absence of wortmannin (PI3-K inhibitor).The results of T cells suggest that the levels of Akt phosphorylation in untreated cells were below 1% for both phosphorylation sites. Pervanadate treatment provoked an 18-fold increase in phosphorylation of Thr308 and the PI3-K inhibitor partially reversed the increase. A comparison between LC-MS/MS and Western blotting suggests that the LC-MS based method is of comparable sensitivity and provides a more accurate phosphorylation stoichiometry, a wider dynamic range and more in-depth information. The application of the new method and its utility to providing predictive markers of response to targeted therapies is discussed.
The Ptdlns-3-kinase signaling pathway plays a vital role in normal physiology and pathophysiology. An LC-MS method using stable isotope peptides to accurately measure the stoichiometry of Akt phosphorylation, a biomarker of Ptdlns-3-kinase activation, in biological samples was developed. A comparison between LC-MS/MS and Western blotting suggests that the LC-MS based method is of comparable sensitivity and provides a more accurate phosphorylation stoichiometry, a wider dynamic range and more in-depth information.
PMCID: PMC2816933  PMID: 19902931
Akt; PKB; phosphorylation; stoichiometry; LC-MS/MS; T cells; U-87 MG cells
21.  A Multidimensional Strategy to Detect Polypharmacological Targets in the Absence of Structural and Sequence Homology 
PLoS Computational Biology  2010;6(1):e1000648.
Conventional drug design embraces the “one gene, one drug, one disease” philosophy. Polypharmacology, which focuses on multi-target drugs, has emerged as a new paradigm in drug discovery. The rational design of drugs that act via polypharmacological mechanisms can produce compounds that exhibit increased therapeutic potency and against which resistance is less likely to develop. Additionally, identifying multiple protein targets is also critical for side-effect prediction. One third of potential therapeutic compounds fail in clinical trials or are later removed from the market due to unacceptable side effects often caused by off-target binding. In the current work, we introduce a multidimensional strategy for the identification of secondary targets of known small-molecule inhibitors in the absence of global structural and sequence homology with the primary target protein. To demonstrate the utility of the strategy, we identify several targets of 4,5-dihydroxy-3-(1-naphthyldiazenyl)-2,7-naphthalenedisulfonic acid, a known micromolar inhibitor of Trypanosoma brucei RNA editing ligase 1. As it is capable of identifying potential secondary targets, the strategy described here may play a useful role in future efforts to reduce drug side effects and/or to increase polypharmacology.
Author Summary
Proteins play a critical role in human disease; bacteria, viruses, and parasites have unique proteins that can interfere with human health, and dysfunctional human proteins can likewise lead to illness. In order to find cures, scientists often try to identify small molecules (drugs) that can inhibit disease-causing proteins. The goal is to identify a molecule that can fit snugly into the pockets and grooves, or “active sites,” on the protein's surface. Unfortunately, drugs that inhibit a single disease-causing protein are problematic. A single protein can evolve to evade drug action. Additionally, when only one protein is targeted, drug potency is often diminished. Single drugs that simultaneously target multiple disease-causing proteins are much more effective. On the other hand, if scientists are not careful, the drugs they design might inhibit essential human proteins in addition to inhibiting their intended targets, leading to unexpected side effects. In our current work, we have developed a computer-based procedure that can be used to identify proteins with similar active sites. Once unexpected protein targets have been identified, scientists can modify drugs under development in order to increase the simultaneous inhibition of multiple disease-causing proteins while avoiding potential side effects by decreasing the inhibition of useful human proteins.
PMCID: PMC2799658  PMID: 20098496
22.  Proteomic scale high-sensitivity analyses of GPI membrane anchors 
Glycoconjugate Journal  2008;26(8):915-921.
Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored proteins are ubiquitous in eukaryotic cells. Earlier analysis methods required large amounts of purified protein to elucidate the structure of the GPI. This paper describes methods for analyzing GPIs on a ‘proteomic’ scale. Partially purified proteins may be run on sodium dodecyl sulphate polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis and then blotted onto a polyvinylidene difluoride (PVDF) membrane. Following identification of the protein the piece of PVDF may be subjected to various chemical treatments, which are specific for GPI structures. The first method uses gas chromatography–mass spectrometry and it enables the presence of a GPI anchor to be confirmed. The second method depends on the cleavage of phosphate bonds and permits the carbohydrate structure to be elucidated by electrospray or matrix assisted laser desorption ionization-time of flight mass spectrometry. The final method described uses deamination of the glucosamine residue to release the lipid moiety for analysis by mass spectrometry.
PMCID: PMC2791486  PMID: 18330699
Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI); Mass spectrometry; Proteomic techniques
23.  Identification and Specific Localization of Tyrosine-Phosphorylated Proteins in Trypanosoma brucei▿ †  
Eukaryotic Cell  2009;8(4):617-626.
Phosphorylation on tyrosine residues is a key signal transduction mechanism known to regulate intercellular and intracellular communication in multicellular organisms. Despite the lack of conventional tyrosine kinases in the genome of the single cell organism Trypanosoma brucei, phosphorylation on trypanosomal protein tyrosine residues has been reported for this parasite. However, the identities of most of the tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins and their precise site(s) of phosphorylation were unknown. Here, we have applied a phosphotyrosine-specific proteomics approach to identify 34 phosphotyrosine-containing proteins from whole-cell extracts of procyclic form T. brucei. A significant proportion of the phosphotyrosine-containing proteins identified in this study were protein kinases of the CMGC kinase group as well as some proteins of unknown function and proteins involved in energy metabolism, protein synthesis, and RNA metabolism. Interestingly, immunofluorescence microscopy using anti-phosphotyrosine antibodies suggests that there is a concentration of tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins associated with cytoskeletal structures (basal body and flagellum) and in the nucleolus of the parasite. This localization of tyrosine-phosphorylated proteins supports the idea that the function of signaling molecules is controlled by their precise location in T. brucei, a principle well known from higher eukaryotes.
PMCID: PMC2669198  PMID: 19181871
24.  Distinct donor and acceptor specificities of Trypanosoma brucei oligosaccharyltransferases 
The EMBO Journal  2009;28(17):2650-2661.
Asparagine-linked glycosylation is catalysed by oligosaccharyltransferase (OTase). In Trypanosoma brucei OTase activity is catalysed by single-subunit enzymes encoded by three paralogous genes of which TbSTT3B and TbSTT3C can complement a yeast Δstt3 mutant. The two enzymes have overlapping but distinct peptide acceptor specificities, with TbSTT3C displaying an enhanced ability to glycosylate sites flanked by acidic residues. TbSTT3A and TbSTT3B, but not TbSTT3C, are transcribed in the bloodstream and procyclic life cycle stages of T. brucei. Selective knockdown and analysis of parasite protein N-glycosylation showed that TbSTT3A selectively transfers biantennary Man5GlcNAc2 to specific glycosylation sites whereas TbSTT3B selectively transfers triantennary Man9GlcNAc2 to others. Analysis of T. brucei glycosylation site occupancy showed that TbSTT3A and TbSTT3B glycosylate sites in acidic to neutral and neutral to basic regions of polypeptide, respectively. This embodiment of distinct specificities in single-subunit OTases may have implications for recombinant glycoprotein engineering. TbSTT3A and TbSTT3B could be knocked down individually, but not collectively, in tissue culture. However, both were independently essential for parasite growth in mice, suggesting that inhibiting protein N-glycosylation could have therapeutic potential against trypanosomiasis.
PMCID: PMC2722254  PMID: 19629045
glycosylation; oligosaccharyltransferase; STT3;  Trypanosoma
25.  Trypanosoma brucei UDP-Glucose:Glycoprotein Glucosyltransferase Has Unusual Substrate Specificity and Protects the Parasite from Stress▿ §  
Eukaryotic Cell  2008;8(2):230-240.
In this paper, we describe the range of N-linked glycan structures produced by wild-type and glucosidase II null mutant bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei parasites and the creation and characterization of a bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase null mutant. These analyses highlight peculiarities of the Trypanosoma brucei UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase, including an unusually wide substrate specificity, ranging from Man5GlcNAc2 to Man9GlcNAc2 glycans, and an unusually high efficiency in vivo, quantitatively glucosylating the Asn263 N-glycan of variant surface glycoprotein (VSG) 221 and 75% of all non-VSG N glycosylation sites. We also show that although Trypanosoma brucei UDP-glucose:glycoprotein glucosyltransferase is not essential for parasite growth at 37°C, it is essential for parasite growth and survival at 40°C. The null mutant was also shown to be hypersensitive to the effects of the N glycosylation inhibitor tunicamycin. Further analysis of bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei under normal conditions and stress conditions suggests that it does not have a classical unfolded protein response triggered by sensing unfolded proteins in the endoplasmic reticulum. Rather, judging by its uniform Grp78/BiP levels, it appears to have an unregulated and constitutively active endoplasmic reticulum protein folding system. We suggest that the latter may be particularly appropriate for this organism, which has an extremely high flux of glycoproteins through its secretory pathway.
PMCID: PMC2643610  PMID: 19114500

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