Trichomonas vaginalis is an extracellular protozoan parasite that binds to the epithelium of the human urogenital tract during infection. In this study, we examined the propensities of 26 T. vaginalis strains to bind to and lyse prostate (BPH-1) and ectocervical (Ect1) epithelium and to lyse red blood cells (RBCs). We found that only three of the strains had a statistically significant preference for either BPH-1 (MSA1103) or Ect1 (LA1 and MSA1123). Overall, we observed that levels of adherence are highly variable among strains, with a 12-fold range of adherence on Ect1 cells and a 45-fold range on BPH-1 cells. Cytolysis levels displayed even greater variability, from no detectable cytolysis to 80% or 90% cytolysis of Ect1 and BPH-1, respectively. Levels of adherence and cytolysis correlate for weakly adherent/cytolytic strains, and a threshold of attachment was found to be necessary to trigger cytolysis; however, this threshold can be reached without inducing cytolysis. Furthermore, cytolysis was completely blocked when we prevented attachment of the parasites to host cells while allowing soluble factors complete access. We demonstrate that hemolysis was a rare trait, with only 4 of the 26 strains capable of lysing >20% RBCs with a 1:30 parasite/RBC ratio. Hemolysis also did not correlate with adherence to or cytolysis of either male (BPH-1)- or female (Ect1)-derived epithelial cell lines. Our results reveal that despite a broad range of pathogenic properties among different T. vaginalis strains, all strains show strict contact-dependent cytolysis.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a common sexually transmitted parasite that colonizes the human urogential tract where it remains extracellular and adheres to epithelial cells. Infections range from asymptomatic to highly inflammatory, depending on the host and the parasite strain. Here, we use a combination of methodologies including cell fractionation, immunofluorescence and electron microscopy, RNA, proteomic and cytokine analyses and cell adherence assays to examine pathogenic properties of T. vaginalis. We have found that T.vaginalis produces and secretes microvesicles with physical and biochemical properties similar to mammalian exosomes. The parasite-derived exosomes are characterized by the presence of RNA and core, conserved exosomal proteins as well as parasite-specific proteins. We demonstrate that T. vaginalis exosomes fuse with and deliver their contents to host cells and modulate host cell immune responses. Moreover, exosomes from highly adherent parasite strains increase the adherence of poorly adherent parasites to vaginal and prostate epithelial cells. In contrast, exosomes from poorly adherent strains had no measurable effect on parasite adherence. Exosomes from parasite strains that preferentially bind prostate cells increased binding of parasites to these cells relative to vaginal cells. In addition to establishing that parasite exosomes act to modulate host∶parasite interactions, these studies are the first to reveal a potential role for exosomes in promoting parasite∶parasite communication and host cell colonization.
Trichomoniasis, the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease worldwide, infects over 275 million people annually. Infection results from the colonization of the human urogenital tract by the parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. To establish and maintain infection the parasite adheres to host cells, a process that is poorly understood. Here, we show that T. vaginalis secretes small vesicles called exosomes that are capable of fusing with and delivering their contents to host cells. Parasite exosomes were found to induce changes in the host cell and to mediate the interaction of T. vaginalis with host by increasing the adherence of the parasite to host cells. Exosomes have been primarily studied in mammalian cells where they have been shown to mediate intercellular communication and have been implicated in processes including development, antigen presentation and cancer metastasis. Our data extend the function of exosomes to mediating host∶parasite interactions, cellular communication between two species and promoting colonization of an extracellular parasite. Research on T. vaginalis exosomes holds the potential for developing applications that would allow exosomes to be used in detecting and diagnosing trichomoniasis and for targeting drugs to the site of infection.
The discovery of mitochondrial-type genes in organisms thought to lack mitochondria led to the demonstration that hydrogenosomes share a common ancestry with mitochondria, as well as the discovery of mitosomes in multiple eukaryotic lineages. No examples of examined eukaryotes lacking a mitochondrion-related organelle exist, implying that the endosymbiont that gave rise to the mitochondrion was present in the first eukaryote. These organelles, known as hydrogenosomes, mitosomes or mitochondrion-like organelles (MLO), are typically reduced, both structurally and biochemically, relative to classical mitochondria. However, despite diversification and adaptation to different niches, all appear to play a role in Fe-S cluster assembly, as observed for mitochondria. Although evidence supports the use of common protein targeting mechanisms in the biogenesis of these diverse organelles, divergent features are also apparent. The metabolism and biogenesis of these organelles in parasitic protists is discussed here.
hydrogenosome; mitosome; evolution; microaerophilic protists; biogenesis
A highly conserved DNA initiator (Inr) element has been the only core promoter element described in the divergent unicellular eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis, although genome analyses reveal that only ∼75% of protein-coding genes appear to contain an Inr. In search of another core promoter element(s), a nonredundant database containing 5′ untranslated regions of expressed T. vaginalis genes was searched for overrepresented DNA motifs and known eukaryotic core promoter elements. In addition to identifying the Inr, two elements that lack sequence similarity to the known protein-coding gene core promoter, motif 3 (M3) and motif 5 (M5), were identified. Mutational and functional analyses demonstrate that both are novel core promoter elements. M3 [(A/G/T)(A/G)C(G/C)G(T/C)T(T/A/G)] resembles a Myb recognition element (MRE) and is bound specifically by a unique protein with a Myb-like DNA binding domain. The M5 element (CCTTT) overlaps the transcription start site and replaces the Inr as an alternative, gene-specific initiator element. Transcription specifically initiates at the second cytosine within M5, in contrast to characteristic initiation by RNA polymerase II at an adenosine. In promoters that combine M3 with either M5 or Inr, transcription initiation is regulated by the M3 motif.
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.
Adhesion; Glycoconjugate; Glycolipid Structure; Host-Pathogen Interactions; Pathogenesis; Trichomonas; TvLG
The cap structure of eukaryotic messenger RNAs is initially elaborated through three enzymatic reactions: hydrolysis of the 5′-triphosphate, transfer of guanosine through a 5′-5′ triphosphate linkage and N7-methylation of the guanine cap. Three distinctive enzymes catalyze each reaction in various microbial eukaryotes, whereas the first two enzymes are fused into a single polypeptide in metazoans and plants. In addition to the guanosine cap, adjacent nucleotides are 2′-O-ribose methylated in metazoa and plants, but not in yeast. Analyses of various cap structures have suggested a linear phylogenetic trend of complexity. These findings have led to a model in which plants and metazoa evolved a two-component capping apparatus and modification of adjacent nucleotides while many microbial eukaryotes maintained the three-component system and did not develop modification of adjacent nucleotides. Here, we have characterized a bifunctional capping enzyme in the divergent microbial eukaryote Trichomonas vaginalis using biochemical and phylogenetic analyses. This unicellular parasite was found to harbor a metazoan/plant-like capping apparatus that is represented by a two-domain polypeptide containing a C-terminus guanylyltransferase and a cysteinyl phosphatase triphosphatase, distinct from its counterpart in other microbial eukaryotes. In addition, T. vaginalis mRNAs contain a cap 1 structure represented by m7GpppAmpUp or m7GpppCmpUp; a feature typical of metazoan and plant mRNAs but absent in yeast mRNAs. Phylogenetic and biochemical analyses of the origin of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme suggests a complex evolutionary model where differential gene loss and/or acquisition occurred in the development of the RNA capping apparatus and cap modified nucleotides during eukaryote diversification.
The protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis is the cause of the most common non-viral sexually transmitted disease worldwide. Evolutionary analyses place Trichomonas in a super group called the Excavata, which includes the kinetoplastids and is highly divergent from fungi, metazoa and plants. Despite the vast evolutionary distances that separate these different eukaryotic lineages, a simplified view of eukaryotic evolution based on the complexity of nucleotide modifications at the 5′ end of mRNAs and the distribution of different types of enzymatic apparatus that confer these modifications has been proposed. Our analyses of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme challenges this view and provides the first example of a two-component capping apparatus typically found in metazoa and plants in a protozoan. The 5′-end nucleotide structure of T. vaginalis mRNAs is also shown to contain additional modified nucleotides, similar to that observed for metazoan and plant mRNAs and unlike that found in most eukaryotic microbes and fungi. Evolutionary analyses of the T. vaginalis capping enzyme indicates that this multicellular type capping apparatus may have come into existence earlier than previously thought.
The cyst wall of Entamoeba invadens (Ei), a model for the human pathogen Entamoeba histolytica, is composed of fibrils of chitin and three chitin-binding lectins called Jacob, Jessie3, and chitinase. Here we show chitin, which was detected with wheat germ agglutinin, is made in secretory vesicles prior to its deposition on the surface of encysting Ei. Jacob lectins, which have tandemly arrayed chitin-binding domains (CBDs), and chitinase, which has an N-terminal CBD, were each made early during encystation. These results are consistent with their hypothesized roles in cross-linking chitin fibrils (Jacob lectins) and remodeling the cyst wall (chitinase). Jessie3 lectins likely form the mortar or daub of the cyst wall, because 1) Jessie lectins were made late during encystation; 2) the addition to Jessie lectins to the cyst wall correlated with a marked decrease in the permeability of cysts to nucleic acid stains (DAPI) and actin-binding heptapeptide (phalloidin); and 3) recombinant Jessie lectins, expressed as a maltose-binding proteins in the periplasm of Escherichia coli, caused transformed bacteria to agglutinate in suspension and form a hard pellet that did not dissociate after centrifugation. Jessie3 appeared as linear forms and rosettes by negative staining of secreted recombinant proteins. These findings provide evidence for a “wattle and daub” model of the Entamoeba cyst wall, where the wattle or sticks (chitin fibrils likely cross-linked by Jacob lectins) is constructed prior to the addition of the mortar or daub (Jessie3 lectins).
Parasitic protists, which are spread by the fecal-oral route, have cyst walls that resist environmental insults (e.g. desiccation, stomach acids, bile, etc.). Entamoeba histolytica, the cause of amebic dysentery and liver abscess, is the only protist characterized to date that has chitin in its cyst wall. We have previously characterized Entamoeba chitin synthases, chitinases, and multivalent chitin-binding lectins called Jacob. Here we present evidence that the Entamoeba Jessie3 lectin contributes to the mortar or daub, which makes the cyst wall impenetrable to small molecules. First, the Jessie3 lectin was made after chitin and Jacob lectins had already been deposited onto the surface of encysting Entamoeba. Second, cysts became impenetrable to small molecules at the same time that Jessie3 was deposited into the wall. Third, recombinant Jessie3 lectins self-aggregated and caused transfected bacteria to agglutinate. These results suggest a “wattle and daub” model of the Ei cyst wall, where the wattle or sticks (chitin fibrils likely cross-linked by Jacob lectins) is constructed prior to the addition of the mortar or daub (Jessie3 lectins).
Eukaryotic RNAs typically contain 5′ cap structures that have been primarily studied in yeast and metazoa. The only known RNA cap structure in unicellular protists is the unusual Cap4 on Trypanosoma brucei mRNAs. We have found that T. vaginalis mRNAs are protected by a 5′ cap structure, however, contrary to that typical for eukaryotes, T. vaginalis spliceosomal snRNAs lack a cap and may contain 5′ monophophates. The distinctive 2,2,7-trimethylguanosine (TMG) cap structure usually found on snRNAs and snoRNAs is produced by hypermethylation of an m7G cap catalyzed by the enzyme trimethylguanosine synthase (Tgs). Here, we biochemically characterize the single T. vaginalis Tgs (TvTgs) encoded in its genome and demonstrate that TvTgs exhibits substrate specificity and amino acid requirements typical of an RNA cap-specific, m7G-dependent N2 methyltransferase. However, recombinant TvTgs is capable of catalysing only a single round of N2 methylation forming a 2,7-dimethylguanosine cap (DMG) as observed previously for Giardia lamblia. In contrast, recombinant Entamoeba histolytica and Trypanosoma brucei Tgs are capable of catalysing the formation of a TMG cap. These data suggest the presence of RNAs with a distinctive 5′ DMG cap in Trichomonas and Giardia lineages that are absent in other protist lineages.
Mariner transposable elements encoding a D,D34D motif-bearing transposase are characterized by their pervasiveness among, and exclusivity to, animal phyla. To date several hundred sequences have been obtained from taxa ranging from cnidarians to humans, only two of which are known to be functional. Related transposons have been identified in plants and fungi, but their absence among protists is noticeable. Here, we identify and characterize Tvmar1, the first representative of the mariner family to be found in a species of protist, the human parasite Trichomonas vaginalis. This is the first D,D34D element to be found outside the animal kingdom, and its inclusion in the mariner family is supported by both structural and phylogenetic analyses. Remarkably, Tvmar1 has all the hallmarks of a functional element, and has recently expanded to several hundred copies in the genome of T. vaginalis. Our results show that a new potentially active mariner has been found, which belongs to a distinct mariner lineage, and has successfully invaded a non-animal, single-celled organism. The considerable genetic distance between Tvmar1 and other mariners may have valuable implications for the design of new, high-efficiency vectors to be used in transfection studies in protists.
transposon; mariner; protist; parabasilid; Trichomonas; vaginalis
Most modern eukaryotes diverged from a common ancestor that contained the α-proteobacterial endosymbiont that gave rise to mitochondria. The ‘amitochondriate’ anaerobic protist parasites that have been studied to date, such as Giardia and Trichomonas harbor mitochondrion-related organelles, such as mitosomes or hydrogenosomes. Yet there is one remaining group of mitochondrion-lacking flagellates known as the Preaxostyla that could represent a primitive ‘pre-mitochondrial’ lineage of eukaryotes. To test this hypothesis, we conducted an expressed sequence tag (EST) survey on the preaxostylid flagellate Trimastix pyriformis, a poorly-studied free-living anaerobe. Among the ESTs we detected 19 proteins that, in other eukaryotes, typically function in mitochondria, hydrogenosomes or mitosomes, 12 of which are found exclusively within these organelles. Interestingly, one of the proteins, aconitase, functions in the tricarboxylic acid cycle typical of aerobic mitochondria, whereas others, such as pyruvate:ferredoxin oxidoreductase and [FeFe] hydrogenase, are characteristic of anaerobic hydrogenosomes. Since Trimastix retains genetic evidence of a mitochondriate ancestry, we can now say definitively that all known living eukaryote lineages descend from a common ancestor that had mitochondria.
Serine hydroxymethyl transferase (SHMT) is a pyridoxal phosphate (PLP)-dependent enzyme that catalyzes the reversible conversion of serine and tetrahydrofolate to glycine and methylenetetrahydrofolate. We have identified a single gene encoding SHMT in the genome of Trichomonas vaginalis, an amitochondriate, deep-branching unicellular protist. The protein possesses a putative N-terminal hydrogenosomal presequence and was shown to localize to hydrogensomes by immunofluorescence analysis, providing evidence of amino acid metabolism in this unusual organelle. In contrast to the tetrameric SHMT that exists in the mammalian host, we found that the T. vaginalis SHMT is a homodimer, as found in prokaryotes. All examined SHMT contain an 8-amino-acid conserved sequence, VTTTTHKT, containing the active-site lysyl residue (Lys 251 in TvSHMT) that forms an internal aldimine with PLP. We mutated this Lys residue to Arg and Gln and examined structural and catalytic properties of the wild-type and mutant enzymes in comparison to that reported for the mammalian protein. The oligomeric structure of the mutant K251R and K251Q TvSHMT was not affected, in contrast to that observed for comparable mutations in the mammalian enzyme. Likewise, contrary to that observed for mammalian SHMT, the catalytic activity of K251R TvSHMT was unaffected in the presence of PLP. The K251Q TvSHMT, however, was found to be inactive. These studies indicate that the active site of the parasite enzyme is distinct from its prokaryotic and eukaryotic counterparts and identify TvSHMT as a potential drug target.
Trichomonas vaginalis is a unicellular eukaryote that lacks mitochondria and contains a specialized organelle, the hydrogenosome, involved in carbohydrate metabolism and iron-sulfur cluster assembly. We report the identification of two glycine cleavage H proteins and a dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenase (L protein) of the glycine decarboxylase complex in T. vaginalis with predicted N-terminal hydrogenosomal presequences. Immunofluorescence analyses reveal that both H and L proteins are localized in hydrogenosomes, providing the first evidence for amino acid metabolism in this organelle. All three proteins were expressed in Escherichia coli and purified to homogeneity. The experimental Km of L protein for the two H proteins were 2.6 μM and 3.7 μM, consistent with both H proteins serving as substrates of L protein. Analyses using purified hydrogenosomes showed that endogenous H proteins exist as monomers and endogenous L protein as a homodimer in their native states. Phylogenetic analyses of L proteins revealed that the T. vaginalis homologue shares a common ancestry with dihydrolipoamide dehydrogenases from the firmicute bacteria, indicating its acquisition via a horizontal gene transfer event independent of the origins of mitochondria and hydrogenosomes.
The extracellular human pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis is covered by a dense glycocalyx thought to play a role in host-parasite interactions. The main component of the glycocalyx is lipophosphoglycan (LPG), a polysaccharide anchored in the plasma membrane by inositol phosphoceramide. To study the role of LPG in trichomonads, we produced T. vaginalis LPG mutants by chemical mutagenesis and lectin selection and characterized them using morphological, biochemical, and functional assays. Two independently selected LPG mutants, with growth rates comparable to that of the wild-type (parent) strain, lost the ability to bind the lectins Ricinnus comunis agglutinin I (RCA120) and wheat germ agglutinin, indicating alterations in surface galactose and glucosamine residues. LPG isolated from mutants migrated faster than parent strain LPG on sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, suggesting the mutants had shorter LPG molecules. Dionex high-performance anion exchange chromatography with pulsed amperometric detection analyses revealed galactosamine, glucosamine, galactose, glucose, mannose/xylose, and rhamnose as the main monosaccharides of T. vaginalis parent strain LPG. LPG from both mutants showed a reduction of galactose and glucosamine, corresponding with the reduced size of their LPG molecules and inability to bind the lectins RCA120 and wheat germ agglutinin. Mutant parasites were defective in attachment to plastic, a characteristic associated with avirulent strains of T. vaginalis. Moreover, the mutants were less adherent and less cytotoxic to human vaginal ectocervical cells in vitro than the parental strain. Finally, while parent strain LPG could inhibit the attachment of parent strain parasites to vaginal cells, LPG from either mutant could not inhibit attachment. These combined results demonstrate that T. vaginalis adherence to host cells is LPG mediated and that an altered LPG leads to reduced adherence and cytotoxicity of this parasite.
While considerable progress has been made in understanding the mechanisms of transcription in higher eukaryotes, transcription in single-celled, primitive eukaryotes remains poorly understood. Promoters of protein-encoding genes in the parasitic protist Trichomonas vaginalis, which represents one of the deepest-branching eukaryotic lineages, have a bipartite structure with gene-specific regulatory elements and a conserved core promoter encompassing the transcription start site. Core promoters in T. vaginalis appear to consist solely of a highly conserved initiator (Inr) element that is both a structural and a functional homologue of its metazoan counterpart. Using DNA affinity chromatography, we have isolated an Inr-binding protein from T. vaginalis. Cloning of the gene encoding the Inr binding protein identified a novel 39-kDa protein (IBP39). We show that IBP39 binds to both double and single Inr motifs found in T. vaginalis genes and that binding requires the conserved nucleotides necessary for Inr function in vivo. Analyses of the cloned IBP39 gene revealed no homology at the protein sequence level with identified proteins in other organisms or the presence of known DNA-binding domains. The relationship between IBP39 and Inr-binding proteins in metazoa presents interesting evolutionary questions.
A number of microaerophilic eukaryotes lack mitochondria but possess another organelle involved in energy metabolism, the hydrogenosome. Limited phylogenetic analyses of nuclear genes support a common origin for these two organelles. We have identified a protein of the mitochondrial carrier family in the hydrogenosome of Trichomonas vaginalis and have shown that this protein, Hmp31, is phylogenetically related to the mitochondrial ADP-ATP carrier (AAC). We demonstrate that the hydrogenosomal AAC can be targeted to the inner membrane of mitochondria isolated from Saccharomyces cerevisiae through the Tim9-Tim10 import pathway used for the assembly of mitochondrial carrier proteins. Conversely, yeast mitochondrial AAC can be targeted into the membranes of hydrogenosomes. The hydrogenosomal AAC contains a cleavable, N-terminal presequence; however, this sequence is not necessary for targeting the protein to the organelle. These data indicate that the membrane-targeting signal(s) for hydrogenosomal AAC is internal, similar to that found for mitochondrial carrier proteins. Our findings indicate that the membrane carriers and membrane protein-targeting machinery of hydrogenosomes and mitochondria have a common evolutionary origin. Together, they provide strong evidence that a single endosymbiont evolved into a progenitor organelle in early eukaryotic cells that ultimately give rise to these two distinct organelles and support the hydrogen hypothesis for the origin of the eukaryotic cell.
Trichomonad parasites such as Tritrichomonas foetus produce large amounts of putrescine (1,4-diaminobutane), which is transported out of the cell via an antiport mechanism which results in the uptake of a molecule of spermine. The importance of putrescine to the survival of the parasite and its role in the biology of T. foetus was investigated by use of the putrescine analogue 1,4-diamino-2-butanone (DAB). Growth of T. foetus in vitro was significantly inhibited by 20 mM DAB, which was reversed by the addition of exogenous 40 mM putrescine. High-performance liquid chromatography analysis of 20 mM DAB-treated T. foetus revealed that putrescine, spermidine, and spermine levels were reduced by 89, 52, and 43%, respectively, compared to those in control cells. The DAB treatment induced several ultrastructural alterations, which were primarily observed in the redox organelles termed hydrogenosomes. These organelles were progressively degraded, giving rise to large vesicles that displayed material immunoreactive with an antibody to β-succinyl-coenzyme A synthetase, a hydrogenosomal enzyme. A protective role for polyamines as stabilizing agents in the trichomonad hydrogenosomal membrane is proposed.
Typical metazoan core promoter elements, such as TATA boxes and Inr motifs, have yet to be identified in early-evolving eukaryotes, underscoring the extensive divergence of these organisms. Towards the identification of core promoters in protists, we have studied transcription of protein-encoding genes in one of the earliest-diverging lineages of Eukaryota, that represented by the parasitic protist Trichomonas vaginalis. A highly conserved element, comprised of a motif similar to a metazoan initiator (Inr) element, surrounds the start site of transcription in all examined T. vaginalis genes. In contrast, a metazoan-like TATA element appears to be absent in trichomonad promoters. We demonstrate that the conserved motif found in T. vaginalis protein-encoding genes is an Inr promoter element. This trichomonad Inr is essential for transcription, responsible for accurate start site selection, and interchangeable between genes, demonstrating its role as a core promoter element. The sequence requirements of the trichomonad Inr are similar to metazoan Inrs and can be replaced by a mammalian Inr. These studies show that the Inr is a ubiquitous, core promoter element for protein-encoding genes in an early-evolving eukaryote. Functional and structural similarities between this protist Inr and the metazoan Inr strongly indicate that the Inr promoter element evolved early in eukaryotic evolution.
The dynamics of reductive genome evolution for eukaryotes living inside other eukaryotic cells are poorly understood compared to well-studied model systems involving obligate intracellular bacteria. Here we present 8.5 Mb of sequence from the genome of the microsporidian Trachipleistophora hominis, isolated from an HIV/AIDS patient, which is an outgroup to the smaller compacted-genome species that primarily inform ideas of evolutionary mode for these enormously successful obligate intracellular parasites. Our data provide detailed information on the gene content, genome architecture and intergenic regions of a larger microsporidian genome, while comparative analyses allowed us to infer genomic features and metabolism of the common ancestor of the species investigated. Gene length reduction and massive loss of metabolic capacity in the common ancestor was accompanied by the evolution of novel microsporidian-specific protein families, whose conservation among microsporidians, against a background of reductive evolution, suggests they may have important functions in their parasitic lifestyle. The ancestor had already lost many metabolic pathways but retained glycolysis and the pentose phosphate pathway to provide cytosolic ATP and reduced coenzymes, and it had a minimal mitochondrion (mitosome) making Fe-S clusters but not ATP. It possessed bacterial-like nucleotide transport proteins as a key innovation for stealing host-generated ATP, the machinery for RNAi, key elements of the early secretory pathway, canonical eukaryotic as well as microsporidian-specific regulatory elements, a diversity of repetitive and transposable elements, and relatively low average gene density. Microsporidian genome evolution thus appears to have proceeded in at least two major steps: an ancestral remodelling of the proteome upon transition to intracellular parasitism that involved reduction but also selective expansion, followed by a secondary compaction of genome architecture in some, but not all, lineages.
Microsporidians are enormously successful obligate intracellular parasites of animals, including humans. Despite their economic and medical importance, there are major gaps in our understanding of how microsporidians have made the transition from a free-living organism to one that can only complete its life cycle by living inside another cell. We present the larger genome of Trachipleistophora hominis isolated from a human patient with HIV/AIDS. Our analyses provide insights into the gene content, genome architecture and intergenic regions of a known opportunistic pathogen, and will facilitate the development of T. hominis as a much-needed model species that can also be grown in co-culture. The genome of T. hominis has more genes than other microsporidians, it has diverse regulatory motifs, and it contains a variety of transposable elements coupled with the machinery for RNA interference, which may eventually allow experimental down-regulation of T. hominis genes. Comparison of the genome of T. hominis with other microsporidians allowed us to infer properties of their common ancestor. Our analyses predict an ancestral microsporidian that was already an intracellular parasite with a reduced core proteome but one with a relatively large genome populated with diverse repetitive elements and a complex transcriptional regulatory network.
Lysozymes and hexosaminidases are ubiquitous hydrolases in bacteria and eukaryotes. In phagocytic lower eukaryotes and professional phagocytes from higher eukaryotes, they are involved in the degradation of ingested bacteria in phagosomes. In Entamoeba histolytica, which is the intestinal protozoan parasite that causes amoebiasis, phagocytosis plays a pivotal role in the nutrient acquisition and the evasion from the host defense systems. While the content of phagosomes and biochemical and physiological roles of the major phagosomal proteins have been established in E. histolytica, the mechanisms of trafficking of these phagosomal proteins, in general, remain largely unknown. In this study, we identified and characterized for the first time the putative receptor/carrier involved in the transport of the above-mentioned hydrolases to phagosomes. We have shown that the receptor, designated as cysteine protease binding protein family 8 (CPBF8), is localized in lysosomes and mediates transport of lysozymes and β-hexosaminidase α-subunit to phagosomes when the amoeba ingests mammalian cells or Gram-positive bacillus Clostridium perfringens. We have also shown that the binding of CPBF8 to the cargos is mediated by the serine-rich domain, more specifically three serine residues of the domain, which likely contains trifluoroacetic acid-sensitive O-phosphodiester-linked glycan modifications, of CPBF8. We further showed that the repression of CPBF8 by gene silencing reduced the lysozyme and β-hexosaminidase activity in phagosomes and delayed the degradation of C. perfringens. Repression of CPBF8 also resulted in decrease in the cytopathy against the mammalian cells, suggesting that CPBF8 may also be involved in, besides the degradation of ingested bacteria, the pathogenesis against the mammalian hosts. This work represents the first case of the identification of a transport receptor of hydrolytic enzymes responsible for the degradation of microorganisms in phagosomes.
Phagocytosis is the cellular process of engulfing solid particles to form an internal phagosome in protozoa, algae, and professional phagocytes of multicellular eukaryotic organisms. In phagocytic protozoa, phagocytosis is involved in the acquisition of nutrients, and the evasion from the host immune system and inflammation. While hydrolytic enzymes that are essential for the efficient and regulated degradation of phagocytosed particles, such as bacteria, fungi, and eukaryotic organisms, have been characterized, the mechanisms of the transport of these proteins are poorly understood. In the present study, we have demonstrated, for the first time, the molecular mechanisms of how the digestive enzymes are transported to phagosomes. Understanding of such mechanisms of the transport of phagosomal proteins at the molecular level may lead to the identification of a novel target for the development of new preventive measures against parasitic infections caused by phagocytic protozoa.
The infectious and diagnostic stage of Giardia lamblia (also known as G. intestinalis or G. duodenalis) is the cyst. The Giardia cyst wall contains fibrils of a unique β-1,3-linked N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) homopolymer and at least three cyst wall proteins (CWPs) composed of Leu-rich repeats (CWPLRR) and a C-terminal conserved Cys-rich region (CWPCRR). Our goals were to dissect the structure of the cyst wall and determine how it is disrupted during excystation. The intact Giardia cyst wall is thin (∼400 nm), easily fractured by sonication, and impermeable to small molecules. Curled fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer are restricted to a narrow plane and are coated with linear arrays of oval-shaped protein complex. In contrast, cyst walls of Giardia treated with hot alkali to deproteinate fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer are thick (∼1.2 µm), resistant to sonication, and permeable. The deproteinated GalNAc homopolymer, which forms a loose lattice of curled fibrils, is bound by native CWP1 and CWP2, as well as by maltose-binding protein (MBP)-fusions containing the full-length CWP1 or CWP1LRR. In contrast, neither MBP alone nor MBP fused to CWP1CRR bind to the GalNAc homopolymer. Recombinant CWP1 binds to the GalNAc homopolymer within secretory vesicles of Giardia encysting in vitro. Fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer are exposed during excystation or by treatment of heat-killed cysts with chymotrypsin, while deproteinated fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer are degraded by extracts of Giardia cysts but not trophozoites. These results show the Leu-rich repeat domain of CWP1 is a lectin that binds to curled fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer. During excystation, host and Giardia proteases appear to degrade bound CWPs, exposing fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer that are digested by a stage-specific glycohydrolase.
While the walls of plants and fungi contain numerous sugar homopolymers (cellulose, chitin, and β-1,3-glucans) and dozens of proteins, the cyst wall of Giardia is relatively simple. The Giardia wall contains a unique homopolymer of β-1,3-linked N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) and at least three cyst wall proteins (CWPs), each of which is composed of Leu-rich repeats and a C-terminal Cys-rich region. The three major discoveries here are: 1) Fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer are curled and form a lattice that is compressed into a narrow plane by bound protein in intact cyst walls. 2) Leu-rich repeats of CWP1 form a novel lectin domain that is specific for fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer, which can be isolated by methods used to deproteinate fungal walls. 3) A cyst-specific glycohydrolase is able to degrade deproteinated fibrils of the GalNAc homopolymer. We incorporate these findings into a new curled fiber and lectin model of the intact Giardia cyst wall and a protease and glycohydrolase model of excystation.
Entamoeba histolytica transmembrane kinases (EhTMKs) can be grouped into six distinct families on the basis of motifs and sequences. Analysis of the E. histolytica genome revealed the presence of 35 EhTMKB1 members on the basis of sequence identity (≥95%). Only six homologs were full length containing an extracellular domain, a transmembrane segment and an intracellular kinase domain. Reverse transcription followed by polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) of the kinase domain was used to generate a library of expressed sequences. Sequencing of randomly picked clones from this library revealed that about 95% of the clones were identical with a single member, EhTMKB1-9, in proliferating cells. On serum starvation, the relative number of EhTMKB1-9 derived sequences decreased with concomitant increase in the sequences derived from another member, EhTMKB1-18. The change in their relative expression was quantified by real time PCR. Northern analysis and RNase protection assay were used to study the temporal nature of EhTMKB1-9 expression after serum replenishment of starved cells. The results showed that the expression of EhTMKB1-9 was sinusoidal. Specific transcriptional induction of EhTMKB1-9 upon serum replenishment was further confirmed by reporter gene (luciferase) expression and the upstream sequence responsible for serum responsiveness was identified. EhTMKB1-9 is one of the first examples of an inducible gene in Entamoeba. The protein encoded by this member was functionally characterized. The recombinant kinase domain of EhTMKB1-9 displayed protein kinase activity. It is likely to have dual specificity as judged from its sensitivity to different kinase inhibitors. Immuno-localization showed EhTMKB1-9 to be a surface protein which decreased on serum starvation and got relocalized on serum replenishment. Cell lines expressing either EhTMKB1-9 without kinase domain, or EhTMKB1-9 antisense RNA, showed decreased cellular proliferation and target cell killing. Our results suggest that E. histolytica TMKs of B1 family are functional kinases likely to be involved in serum response and cellular proliferation.
The presence of a vast array of putative transmembrane kinase genes suggests an extensive network of signaling systems in E. histolytica, particularly the ability to perceive signals from the extracellular environment and transduce these intracellularly. However, it has been very difficult to work with these molecules due to the presence of a large number of homologs. It is also not clear if these molecules are indeed protein kinases, as no kinase activity has yet been shown associated with these molecules. In this report, we show that EhTMKB1-9 is a protein kinase and it is one of the early serum-induced genes. It is a predominant EhTMKB1 molecule that is expressed in proliferating cells and its expression is modulated by serum. Cells containing a reduced level of EhTMKB1-9 or high level of a mutant protein result in decreased proliferation, target cell killing and adherence. The results presented in this report suggest that EhTMKB1-9 is an important signaling molecule likely to be involved in E. histolytica proliferation and virulence. We have also identified a serum starvation induced response where expression of EhTMKB1-18 was found to be induced.
Microsporidia are a group of obligate intracellular parasitic eukaryotes that were considered to be amitochondriate until the recent discovery of highly reduced mitochondrial organelles called mitosomes. Analysis of the complete genome of Encephalitozoon cuniculi revealed a highly reduced set of proteins in the organelle, mostly related to the assembly of iron-sulphur clusters. Oxidative phosphorylation and the Krebs cycle proteins were absent, in keeping with the notion that the microsporidia and their mitosomes are anaerobic, as is the case for other mitosome bearing eukaryotes, such as Giardia. Here we provide evidence opening the possibility that mitosomes in a number of microsporidian lineages are not completely anaerobic. Specifically, we have identified and characterized a gene encoding the alternative oxidase (AOX), a typically mitochondrial terminal oxidase in eukaryotes, in the genomes of several distantly related microsporidian species, even though this gene is absent from the complete genome of E. cuniculi. In order to confirm that these genes encode functional proteins, AOX genes from both A. locustae and T. hominis were over-expressed in E. coli and AOX activity measured spectrophotometrically using ubiquinol-1 (UQ-1) as substrate. Both A. locustae and T. hominis AOX proteins reduced UQ-1 in a cyanide and antimycin-resistant manner that was sensitive to ascofuranone, a potent inhibitor of the trypanosomal AOX. The physiological role of AOX microsporidia may be to reoxidise reducing equivalents produced by glycolysis, in a manner comparable to that observed in trypanosomes.
Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites responsible for a number of diseases in commercially important animals (e.g. bees) and of significant medical concern, in particular in immunocompromised humans. Though related to fungi, microsporidia have undergone a rapid phase of adaption to the intracellular environment and have in the process reduced many aspects of their biology. Notably, microsporidia have highly reduced mitochondria (powerhouses of the cell) reflected in reduced energy metabolic pathways. Thus they likely produce ATP only through the process of glycolysis. In some parasites, this glycolytic pathway is dependent on an additional step involving a protein called the “alternative oxidase”. We have shown that this protein is also present in several species of microsporidia. Crucially, this protein is absent from humans and so can potentially be exploited as a drug target. Our experiments show that this protein is likely widespread in microsporidia, and is sensitive to the antibiotic ascofuranone, which is currently being tested as a potential treatment for the agent causing sleeping sickness. Our results suggest that knowledge gleaned from drug trials on sleeping sickness is potentially transferrable to the treatment of some cases of microsporidiosis.
Small interfering RNAs regulate gene expression in diverse biological processes, including heterochromatin formation and DNA elimination, developmental regulation, and cell differentiation. In the single-celled eukaryote Entamoeba histolytica, we have identified a population of small RNAs of 27 nt size that (i) have 5′-polyphosphate termini, (ii) map antisense to genes, and (iii) associate with an E. histolytica Piwi-related protein. Whole genome microarray expression analysis revealed that essentially all genes to which antisense small RNAs map were not expressed under trophozoite conditions, the parasite stage from which the small RNAs were cloned. However, a number of these genes were expressed in other E. histolytica strains with an inverse correlation between small RNA and gene expression level, suggesting that these small RNAs mediate silencing of the cognate gene. Overall, our results demonstrate that E. histolytica has an abundant 27 nt small RNA population, with features similar to secondary siRNAs from C. elegans, and which appear to regulate gene expression. These data indicate that a silencing pathway mediated by 5′-polyphosphate siRNAs extends to single-celled eukaryotic organisms.
Regulation of gene expression can occur via multiple conserved pathways. One such mechanism is mediated by RNA molecules of about 21–24 nucleotides (called small RNAs), which can affect rates of RNA degradation or protein production. These small RNA molecules regulate diverse biological processes in a broad range of systems. The vast majority of the published literature about these molecules is from multi-cellular organisms. We have made a number of novel observations with respect to small RNA size, structure, and function in Entamoeba histolytica, a single-celled parasite and an important human pathogen. Our work has identified that E. histolytica has an abundant population of 27 nucleotide small RNAs, which have an unusual structure, indicating that they are generated by a relatively atypical mechanism. A substantial portion of these small RNAs are antisense to target genes and appear to silence them. These data establish a new paradigm for how gene expression is regulated in this organism. Furthermore, the identification of small RNAs with these structural characteristics dramatically broadens the evolutionary spectrum in which this phenomenon has been identified and indicates significant diversity and complexity of small RNAs and their functions in single-celled eukaryotes.