Malaria parasites undergo, in the vertebrate host, a developmental switch from asexual replication to sexual differentiation leading to the formation of gametocytes, the only form able to survive in the mosquito vector. Regulation of the onset of the sexual phase remains largely unknown and represents an important gap in the understanding of the parasite’s complex biology.
The expression and function of the Nima-related kinase Pfnek-4 during the early sexual development of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum were investigated, using three types of transgenic Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 lines: (i) episomally expressing a Pfnek-4-GFP fusion protein under the control of its cognate pfnek-4 promoter; (ii) episomally expressing negative or positive selectable markers, yeast cytosine deaminase-uridyl phosphoribosyl transferase, or human dihydrofolate reductase, under the control of the pfnek-4 promoter; and (iii) lacking a functional pfnek-4 gene. Parasite transfectants were analysed by fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry. In vitro growth rate and gametocyte formation were determined by Giemsa-stained blood smears.
The Pfnek-4-GFP protein was found to be expressed in stage II to V gametocytes and, unexpectedly, in a subset of asexual-stage parasites undergoing schizogony. Culture conditions stimulating gametocyte formation resulted in significant increase of this schizont subpopulation. Moreover, sorted asexual parasites expressing the Pfnek-4-GFP protein displayed elevated gametocyte formation when returned to in vitro culture in presence of fresh red blood cells, when compared to GFP- parasites from the same initial population. Negative selection of asexual parasites expressing pfnek-4 showed a marginal reduction in growth rate, whereas positive selection caused a marked reduction in parasitaemia, but was not sufficient to completely abolish proliferation. Pfnek-4- clones are not affected in their asexual growth and produced normal numbers of stage V gametocytes.
The results indicate that Pfnek-4 is not strictly gametocyte-specific, and is expressed in a small subset of asexual parasites displaying high rate conversion to sexual development. Pfnek-4 is not required for erythrocytic schizogony and gametocytogenesis. This is the first study to report the use of a molecular marker for the sorting of sexually-committed schizont stage P. falciparum parasites, which opens the way to molecular characterization of this pre-differentiated subpopulation.
Gametocytes; NIMA; Plasmodium falciparum; Ser/Thr protein kinase
A crystallographic and biochemical study of L. major cysteine synthase, which is a pyridoxyl phosphate-dependent enzyme, is reported. The structure was determined to 1.8 Å resolution and revealed that the cofactor has been lost and that a fragment of γ-poly-d-glutamic acid, a crystallization ingredient, was bound in the active site. The enzyme was inhibited by peptides.
Cysteine biosynthesis is a potential target for drug development against parasitic Leishmania species; these protozoa are responsible for a range of serious diseases. To improve understanding of this aspect of Leishmania biology, a crystallographic and biochemical study of L. major cysteine synthase has been undertaken, seeking to understand its structure, enzyme activity and modes of inhibition. Active enzyme was purified, assayed and crystallized in an orthorhombic form with a dimer in the asymmetric unit. Diffraction data extending to 1.8 Å resolution were measured and the structure was solved by molecular replacement. A fragment of γ-poly-d-glutamic acid, a constituent of the crystallization mixture, was bound in the enzyme active site. Although a d-glutamate tetrapeptide had insignificant inhibitory activity, the enzyme was competitively inhibited (K
i = 4 µM) by DYVI, a peptide based on the C-terminus of the partner serine acetyltransferase with which the enzyme forms a complex. The structure surprisingly revealed that the cofactor pyridoxal phosphate had been lost during crystallization.
Arabidopsis thaliana; cysteine synthase; Leishmania major
The evolution of drug-resistance in pathogens is a major global health threat. Elucidating the molecular basis of pathogen drug-resistance has been the focus of many studies but rarely is it known whether a drug-resistance mechanism identified is universal for the studied pathogen; it has seldom been clarified whether drug-resistance mechanisms vary with the pathogen's genotype. Nevertheless this is of critical importance in gaining an understanding of the complexity of this global threat and in underpinning epidemiological surveillance of pathogen drug resistance in the field. This study aimed to assess the molecular and phenotypic heterogeneity that emerges in natural parasite populations under drug treatment pressure. We studied lines of the protozoan parasite Leishmania (L.) donovani with differential susceptibility to antimonial drugs; the lines being derived from clinical isolates belonging to two distinct genetic populations that circulate in the leishmaniasis endemic region of Nepal. Parasite pathways known to be affected by antimonial drugs were characterised on five experimental levels in the lines of the two populations. Characterisation of DNA sequence, gene expression, protein expression and thiol levels revealed a number of molecular features that mark antimonial-resistant parasites in only one of the two populations studied. A final series of in vitro stress phenotyping experiments confirmed this heterogeneity amongst drug-resistant parasites from the two populations. These data provide evidence that the molecular changes associated with antimonial-resistance in natural Leishmania populations depend on the genetic background of the Leishmania population, which has resulted in a divergent set of resistance markers in the Leishmania populations. This heterogeneity of parasite adaptations provides severe challenges for the control of drug resistance in the field and the design of molecular surveillance tools for widespread applicability.
Drug resistance is a serious problem that strikes at the core of infectious disease control. The mechanisms developed by pathogens to become resistant against existing drug treatments have been studied for many years but these studies have frequently scrutinized a few lines of the pathogen and rarely is it known whether the mechanisms identified occur in all pathogen populations present in endemic regions. In this study we assessed the diversity amongst drug-resistant parasites which emerged under treatment pressure in a natural parasite population. An extensive molecular and phenotypic characterisation of a collection of Leishmania donovani parasites isolated from leishmaniasis patients revealed that the parasites which are resistant to treatment have heterogeneous characters. The results provide evidence that how a parasite develops resistance under treatment pressure depends upon its genetic background. These findings provide key insights into the challenge that drug resistance poses for the control of infectious diseases like leishmaniasis.
Thiol peroxidase, Tpx, has been shown to be a target protein of the salicylidene acylhydrazide class of antivirulence compounds. In this study we present the crystal structures of Tpx from Y. pseudotuberculosis (ypTpx) in the oxidised and reduced states, together with the structure of the C61S mutant. The structures solved are consistent with previously solved atypical 2-Cys thiol peroxidases, including that for “forced” reduced states using the C61S mutant. In addition, by investigating the solution structure of ypTpx using small angle X-ray scattering (SAXS), we have confirmed that reduced state ypTpx in solution is a homodimer. The solution structure also reveals flexibility around the dimer interface. Notably, the conformational changes observed between the redox states at the catalytic triad and at the dimer interface have implications for substrate and inhibitor binding. The structural data were used to model the binding of two salicylidene acylhydrazide compounds to the oxidised structure of ypTpx. Overall, the study provides insights into the binding of the salicylidene acylhydrazides to ypTpx, aiding our long-term strategy to understand the mode of action of this class of compounds.
Plasmodium falciparum contains three genes encoding potential glutamate dehydrogenases. The protein encoded by gdha has previously been biochemically and structurally characterized. It was suggested that it is important for the supply of reducing equivalents during intra-erythrocytic development of Plasmodium and, therefore, a suitable drug target.
The gene encoding the NADP(H)-dependent GDHa has been disrupted by reverse genetics in P. falciparum and the effect on the antioxidant and metabolic capacities of the resulting mutant parasites was investigated.
No growth defect under low and elevated oxygen tension, no up- or down-regulation of a number of antioxidant and NADP(H)-generating proteins or mRNAs and no increased levels of GSH were detected in the D10Δgdha parasite lines. Further, the fate of the carbon skeleton of [13C] labelled glutamine was assessed by metabolomic studies, revealing no differences in the labelling of α-ketoglutarate and other TCA pathway intermediates between wild type and mutant parasites.
First, the data support the conclusion that D10Δgdha parasites are not experiencing enhanced oxidative stress and that GDHa function may not be the provision of NADP(H) for reductive reactions. Second, the results imply that the cytosolic, NADP(H)-dependent GDHa protein is not involved in the oxidative deamination of glutamate but that the protein may play a role in ammonia assimilation as has been described for other NADP(H)-dependent GDH from plants and fungi. The lack of an obvious phenotype in the absence of GDHa may point to a regulatory role of the protein providing glutamate (as nitrogen storage molecule) in situations where the parasites experience a limiting supply of carbon sources and, therefore, under in vitro conditions the enzyme is unlikely to be of significant importance. The data imply that the protein is not a suitable target for future drug development against intra-erythrocytic parasite development.
Conoidin A (1) is an inhibitor of host cell invasion by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. In the course of studies aimed at identifying potential targets of this compound, we determined that it binds to the T. gondii enzyme peroxiredoxin II (TgPrxII). Peroxiredoxins are a widely conserved family of enzymes that function in antioxidant defense and signal transduction, and changes in PrxII expression are associated with a variety of human diseases, including cancer. Disruption of the TgPrxII gene by homologous recombination had no effect on the sensitivity of the parasites to 1, suggesting that TgPrxII is not the invasion-relevant target of 1. However, we showed that 1 binds covalently to the peroxidatic cysteine of TgPrxII, inhibiting its enzymatic activity in vitro. Studies with human epithelial cells showed that 1 also inhibits hyperoxidation of human PrxII. These data identify Conoidin A as a novel inhibitor of this important class of antioxidant and redox signaling enzymes.
Plasmodium falciparum-parasitized red blood cells (RBCs) are equipped with protective antioxidant enzymes and heat shock proteins (HSPs). The latter are only considered to protect against thermal stress. Important issues are poorly explored: first, it is insufficiently known how both systems are expressed in relation to the parasite developmental stage; secondly, it is unknown whether P. falciparum HSPs are redox-responsive, in view of redox sensitivity of HSP in eukaryotic cells; thirdly, it is poorly known how the antioxidant defense machinery would respond to increased oxidative stress or inhibited antioxidant defense. Those issues are interesting as several antimalarials increase the oxidative stress or block antioxidant defense in the parasitized RBC. In addition, numerous inhibitors of HSPs are currently developed for cancer therapy and might be tested as anti-malarials. Thus, the joint disruption of the parasite antioxidant enzymes/HSP system would interfere with parasite growth and open new perspectives for anti-malaria therapy.
Stage-dependent mRNA expression of ten representative P. falciparum antioxidant enzymes and hsp60/70–2/70–3/75/90 was studied by quantitative real-time RT-PCR in parasites growing in normal RBCs, in RBCs oxidatively-stressed by moderate H2O2 generation and in G6PD-deficient RBCs. Protein expression of antioxidant enzymes was assayed by Western blotting. The pentosephosphate-pathway flux was measured in isolated parasites after Sendai-virus lysis of RBC membrane.
In parasites growing in normal RBCs, mRNA expression of antioxidant enzymes and HSPs displayed co-ordinated stage-dependent modulation, being low at ring, highest at early trophozoite and again very low at schizont stage. Additional exogenous oxidative stress or growth in antioxidant blunted G6PD-deficient RBCs indicated remarkable flexibility of both systems, manifested by enhanced, co-ordinated mRNA expression of antioxidant enzymes and HSPs. Protein expression of antioxidant enzymes was also increased in oxidatively-stressed trophozoites.
Results indicated that mRNA expression of parasite antioxidant enzymes and HSPs was co-ordinated and stage-dependent. Secondly, both systems were redox-responsive and showed remarkably increased and co-ordinated expression in oxidatively-stressed parasites and in parasites growing in antioxidant blunted G6PD-deficient RBCs. Lastly, as important anti-malarials either increase oxidant stress or impair antioxidant defense, results may encourage the inclusion of anti-HSP molecules in anti-malarial combined drugs.
Lipoic acid (LA) is a dithiol-containing cofactor that is essential for the function of α-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes. LA acts as a reversible acyl group acceptor and ‘swinging arm’ during acyl-coenzyme A formation. The cofactor is post-translationally attached to the acyl-transferase subunits of the multienzyme complexes through the action of octanoyl (lipoyl): N-octanoyl (lipoyl) transferase (LipB) or lipoic acid protein ligases (LplA). Remarkably, apicomplexan parasites possess LA biosynthesis as well as scavenging pathways and the two pathways are distributed between mitochondrion and a vestigial organelle, the apicoplast. The apicoplast-specific LipB is dispensable for parasite growth due to functional redundancy of the parasite's lipoic acid/octanoic acid ligases/transferases. In this study, we show that LplA1 plays a pivotal role during the development of the erythrocytic stages of the malaria parasite. Gene disruptions in the human malaria parasite P. falciparum consistently were unsuccessful while in the rodent malaria model parasite P. berghei the LplA1 gene locus was targeted by knock-in and knockout constructs. However, the LplA1(−) mutant could not be cloned suggesting a critical role of LplA1 for asexual parasite growth in vitro and in vivo. These experimental genetics data suggest that lipoylation during expansion in red blood cells largely occurs through salvage from the host erythrocytes and subsequent ligation of LA to the target proteins of the malaria parasite.
Vitamins are essential components of the human diet. By contrast, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and related apicomplexan parasites synthesise certain vitamins, de novo, either completely or in parts. The occurrence of the various biosynthesis pathways is specific to different apicomplexan parasites, emphasising their distinct requirements for nutrients and growth factors. The absence of vitamin biosynthesis from the human host implies that inhibition of the parasite pathways may be a way to interfere specifically with parasite development. However, the precise role of biosynthesis and potential uptake of vitamins for the overall regulation of vitamin homeostasis in the parasites needs to be established first. In this review Sylke Müller and Barbara Kappes focus mainly on the procurement of vitamin B1, B5 and B6 by Plasmodium and other apicomplexan parasites.
Malaria; drug target; pantothenate; thiamine; pyridoxal phosphate; vitamins
Lipoic acid (LA) is an essential cofactor of α-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes (KADHs) and the glycine cleavage system. In Plasmodium, LA is attached to the KADHs by organelle-specific lipoylation pathways. Biosynthesis of LA exclusively occurs in the apicoplast, comprising octanoyl-[acyl carrier protein]: protein N-octanoyltransferase (LipB) and LA synthase. Salvage of LA is mitochondrial and scavenged LA is ligated to the KADHs by LA protein ligase 1 (LplA1). Both pathways are entirely independent, suggesting that both are likely to be essential for parasite survival. However, disruption of the LipB gene did not negatively affect parasite growth despite a drastic loss of LA (>90%). Surprisingly, the sole, apicoplast-located pyruvate dehydrogenase still showed lipoylation, suggesting that an alternative lipoylation pathway exists in this organelle. We provide evidence that this residual lipoylation is attributable to the dual targeted, functional lipoate protein ligase 2 (LplA2). Localisation studies show that LplA2 is present in both mitochondrion and apicoplast suggesting redundancy between the lipoic acid protein ligases in the erythrocytic stages of P. falciparum.
Plasmodium falciparum is the causative agent of severe malaria. The parasites possess two organelles that are integral to their metabolism—the mitochondrion and the apicoplast, a remnant plastid. Both organelles contain enzymes that depend on the attachment of the cofactor lipoic acid for their catalytic activity. These are the α-keto acid dehydrogenase complexes and the glycine cleavage system (GCS). The pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) is solely found in the apicoplast of the parasites whereas α-keto glutarate and branched chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase as well as the GCS are mitochondrial. Both organelles possess specific and independent mechanisms that guarantee the posttranslational lipoylation of these enzyme complexes. In this study we show that the apicoplast located lipoic acid protein ligase, octanoyl-[acyl carrier protein]: protein N-octanoyltransferase (LipB), is not essential for parasite survival by disrupting the LipB gene locus. Despite a drastic loss of total lipoic acid, the parasites progress through their intraerythrocytic development unperturbed although the apicoplast-located PDH shows a reduced level of lipoylation. This phenotype is attributable to the presence of the recently described lipoic acid protein ligase 2, LplA2, which we show to be dually targeted to mitochondrion and apicoplast.
We describe the genome sequence of the protist Trichomonas vaginalis, a sexually transmitted human pathogen. Repeats and transposable elements comprise about two-thirds of the ~160-megabase genome, reflecting a recent massive expansion of genetic material. This expansion, in conjunction with the shaping of metabolic pathways that likely transpired through lateral gene transfer from bacteria, and amplification of specific gene families implicated in pathogenesis and phagocytosis of host proteins may exemplify adaptations of the parasite during its transition to a urogenital environment. The genome sequence predicts previously unknown functions for the hydrogenosome, which support a common evolutionary origin of this unusual organelle with mitochondria.
Adverse events triggered by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are among the most common drug-related intolerance reactions in medicine; they are possibly related to inhibition of cyclooxygenase-1. Coxibs, preferentially inhibiting cyclooxygenase-2, may therefore represent safe alternatives in patients with NSAID intolerance. We reviewed the literature in a systematic and structured manner to identify and evaluate studies on the tolerance of coxibs in patients with NSAID intolerance. We searched MEDLINE (1966–2006), the COCHRANE LIBRARY (4th Issue 2006) and EMBASE (1966–2006) up to December 9, 2006, and analysed all publications included using a predefined evaluation sheet. Symptoms and severity of adverse events to coxibs were analysed based on all articles comprising such information. Subsequently, the probability for adverse events triggered by coxibs was determined on analyses of double-blind prospective trials only. Among 3,304 patients with NSAID intolerance, 119 adverse events occurred under coxib medication. All adverse events, except two, have been allergic/urticarial in nature; none was lethal, but two were graded as life-threatening (grade 4). The two non-allergic adverse events were described as a grade 1 upper respiratory tract haemorrhage, and a grade 1 gastrointestinal symptom, respectively. In 13 double-blind prospective studies comprising a total of 591 patients with NSAID intolerance, only 13 adverse reactions to coxib provocations were observed. The triggering coxibs were rofecoxib (2/286), celecoxib (6/208), etoricoxib (4/56), and valdecoxib (1/41). This review documents the good tolerability of coxibs in patients with NSAID intolerance, for whom access to this class of drugs for short-term treatment of pain and inflammation is advantageous.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs; Intolerance; Urticaria; Adverse drug reaction; Coxibs
Plasmodium falciparum possesses a single mitochondrion with a functional electron transport chain. During respiration, reactive oxygen species are generated that need to be removed to protect the organelle from oxidative damage. In the absence of catalase and glutathione peroxidase, the parasites rely primarily on peroxiredoxin-linked systems for protection. We have analysed the biochemical and structural features of the mitochondrial peroxiredoxin and thioredoxin of P. falciparum. The mitochondrial localization of both proteins was confirmed by expressing green fluorescent protein fusions in parasite erythrocytic stages. Recombinant protein was kinetically characterized using the cytosolic and the mitochondrial thioredoxin (PfTrx1 and PfTrx2 respectively). The peroxiredoxin clearly preferred PfTrx2 to PfTrx1 as a reducing partner, reflected by the KM values of 11.6 μM and 130.4 μM respectively. Substitution of the two dyads asparagine-62/tyrosine-63 and phenylalanine-139/alanine-140 residues by aspartate-phenylalaine and valine-serine, respectively, reduced the KM for Trx1 but had no effect on the KM of Trx2 suggesting some role for these residues in the discrimination between the two substrates. Solution studies suggest that the protein exists primarily in a homodecameric form. The crystal structure of the mitochondrial peroxiredoxin reveals a fold typical of the 2-Cys class peroxiredoxins and a dimeric form with an intermolecular disulphide bridge between Cys67 and Cys187. These results show that the mitochondrial peroxiredoxin of P. falciparum occurs in both dimeric and decameric forms when purified under non-reducing conditions.
The intraerythrocytic development of Plasmodium falciparum correlates with increasing levels of the polyamines putrescine, spermidine, and spermine in the infected red blood cells; and compartmental analyses revealed that the majority is associated with the parasite. Since depletion of cellular polyamines is a promising strategy for inhibition of parasite proliferation, new inhibitors of polyamine biosynthesis were tested for their antimalarial activities. The ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) inhibitor 3-aminooxy-1-aminopropane (APA) and its derivatives CGP 52622A and CGP 54169A as well as the S-adenosylmethionine decarboxlyase (AdoMetDC) inhibitors CGP 40215A and CGP 48664A potently affected the bifunctional P. falciparum ODC-AdoMetDC, with Ki values in the low nanomolar and low micromolar ranges, respectively. Furthermore, the agents were examined for their in vitro plasmodicidal activities in 48-h incubation assays. APA, CGP 52622A, CGP 54169A, and CGP 40215A were the most effective, with 50% inhibitory concentrations below 3 μM. While the effects of the ODC inhibitors were completely abolished by the addition of putrescine, growth inhibition by the AdoMetDC inhibitor CGP 40215A could not be antagonized by putrescine or spermidine. Moreover, CGP 40215A did not affect the cellular polyamine levels, indicating a mechanism of action against P. falciparum independent of polyamine synthesis. In contrast, the ODC inhibitors led to decreased cellular putrescine and spermidine levels in P. falciparum, supporting the fact that they exert their antimalarial activities by inhibition of the bifunctional ODC-AdoMetDC.
Glutathione (γ-glutamylcysteinyl-glycine, GSH) has vital functions as thiol redox buffer and cofactor of antioxidant and detoxification enzymes. Plasmodium falciparum possesses a functional GSH biosynthesis pathway and contains mM concentrations of the tripeptide. It was impossible to delete in P. falciparum the genes encoding γ-glutamylcysteine synthetase (γGCS) or glutathione synthetase (GS), the two enzymes synthesizing GSH, although both gene loci were not refractory to recombination. Our data show that the parasites cannot compensate for the loss of GSH biosynthesis via GSH uptake. This suggests an important if not essential function of GSH biosynthesis pathway for the parasites. Treatment with the irreversible inhibitor of γGCS L-buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) reduced intracellular GSH levels in P. falciparum and was lethal for their intra-erythrocytic development, corroborating the suggestion that GSH biosynthesis is important for parasite survival. Episomal expression of γgcs in P. falciparum increased tolerance to BSO attributable to increased levels of γGCS. Concomitantly expression of glutathione reductase was reduced leading to an increased GSH efflux. Together these data indicate that GSH levels are tightly regulated by a functional GSH biosynthesis and the reduction of GSSG.
α-Lipoic acid (6,8-thioctic acid; LA) is a vital co-factor of α-ketoacid dehydrogenase complexes and the glycine cleavage system. In recent years it was shown that biosynthesis and salvage of LA in Plasmodium are necessary for the parasites to complete their complex life cycle. LA salvage requires two lipoic acid protein ligases (LplA1 and LplA2). LplA1 is confined to the mitochondrion while LplA2 is located in both the mitochondrion and the apicoplast. LplA1 exclusively uses salvaged LA and lipoylates α-ketoglutarate dehydrogenase, branched chain α-ketoacid dehydrogenase and the H-protein of the glycine cleavage system. LplA2 cannot compensate for the loss of LplA1 function during blood stage development suggesting a specific function for LplA2 that has yet to be elucidated. LA salvage is essential for the intra-erythrocytic and liver stage development of Plasmodium and thus offers great potential for future drug or vaccine development.
LA biosynthesis, comprising octanoyl-acyl carrier protein (ACP) : protein N-octanoyltransferase (LipB) and lipoate synthase (LipA), is exclusively found in the apicoplast of Plasmodium where it generates LA de novo from octanoyl-ACP, provided by the type II fatty acid biosynthesis (FAS II) pathway also present in the organelle. LA is the co-factor of the acetyltransferase subunit of the apicoplast located pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), which generates acetyl-CoA, feeding into FAS II. LA biosynthesis is not vital for intra-erythrocytic development of Plasmodium, but the deletion of several genes encoding components of FAS II or PDH was detrimental for liver stage development of the parasites indirectly suggesting that the same applies to LA biosynthesis.
These data provide strong evidence that LA salvage and biosynthesis are vital for different stages of Plasmodium development and offer potential for drug and vaccine design against malaria.
Lipoic acid salvage; lipoic acid biosynthesis; malaria; vaccine development; chemotherapy.