Human African trypanosomiasis is caused by infection with parasites of the Trypanosoma brucei species complex, and threatens over 70 million people in sub-Saharan Africa. Development of new drugs is hampered by the limitations of current rodent models, particularly for stage II infections, which occur once parasites have accessed the CNS. Bioluminescence imaging of pathogens expressing firefly luciferase (emission maximum 562 nm) has been adopted in a number of in vivo models of disease to monitor dissemination, drug-treatment and the role of immune responses. However, lack of sensitivity in detecting deep tissue bioluminescence at wavelengths below 600 nm has restricted the wide-spread use of in vivo imaging to investigate infections with T. brucei and other trypanosomatids.
Here, we report a system that allows the detection of fewer than 100 bioluminescent T. brucei parasites in a murine model. As a reporter, we used a codon-optimised red-shifted Photinus pyralis luciferase (PpyRE9H) with a peak emission of 617 nm. Maximal expression was obtained following targeted integration of the gene, flanked by an upstream 5′-variant surface glycoprotein untranslated region (UTR) and a downstream 3′-tubulin UTR, into a T. brucei ribosomal DNA locus. Expression was stable in the absence of selective drug for at least 3 months and was not associated with detectable phenotypic changes. Parasite dissemination and drug efficacy could be monitored in real time, and brain infections were readily detectable. The level of sensitivity in vivo was significantly greater than achievable with a yellow firefly luciferase reporter.
The optimised bioluminescent reporter line described here will significantly enhance the application of in vivo imaging to study stage II African trypanosomiasis in murine models. The greatly increased sensitivity provides a new framework for investigating host-parasite relationships, particularly in the context of CNS infections. It should be ideally suited to drug evaluation programmes.
Parasites of the Trypanosoma brucei species complex are the causative agents of human African trypanosomiasis. There is an urgent need for new drugs to treat this debilitating and potentially fatal infection, especially in its late stage, when parasites have entered the central nervous system. Factors which hamper drug development include the limitations of the current murine models for stage II disease. In vivo bioluminescence imaging is a non-invasive technique that can be used to monitor infections in real time and is a powerful new approach for studying drug effectiveness. However, application of this imaging technology to trypanosome infections has been restricted because of lack of sensitivity. In this paper, we have taken a major step to resolve this problem. The enhanced sensitivity in infected mice is based on the high level expression in trypanosomes of a “red-shifted” luciferase variant that greatly improves bioluminescence detection in deep tissue. The system which we have developed should be a widely applicable tool for providing new insights into the infection biology of T. brucei.
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes. They play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites and inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Homology modeling of the mature Leishmania mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8 suggested that it differs significantly from bovine cathepsin B and thus could be a good drug target. High throughput screening of a compound library against this enzyme and bovine cathepsin B in a counter assay identified four novel inhibitors, containing the warhead-types semicarbazone, thiosemicarbazone and triazine nitrile, that can be used as leads for antiparasite drug design. Covalent docking experiments confirmed the SARs of these lead compounds in an effort to understand the structural elements required for specific inhibition of CPB2.8. This study has provided starting points for the design of selective and highly potent inhibitors of L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB that may also have useful efficacy against other important cysteine proteases.
Metacaspases are cysteine peptidases found only in yeast, plants and lower eukaryotes, including the protozoa. To investigate the extended substrate specificity and effects of Ca2+ on the activation of these enzymes, detailed kinetic, biochemical and structural analyses were carried out on metacaspase 2 from Trypanosoma brucei (TbMCA2). These results reveal that TbMCA2 has is an unambiguous preference for basic amino acids at the P1 position of peptide substrates and that this is most likely a result of hydrogen bonding from the P1 residue to Asp95 and Asp211 in TbMCA2. In addition, TbMCA2 also has a preference for charged residues at the P2 and P3 positions and for small residues at the prime-side of a peptide substrate. Studies into the effects of Ca2+ on the enzyme revealed the presence of two calcium-binding sites and a reversible structural modification of the enzyme upon Ca2+-binding. In addition, the concentration of Ca2+ used for activation of TbMCA2 was found to produce a differential effect on the activity of TbMCA2, but only when a series of peptides that differed in P2 were examined, suggesting that Ca2+ activation of TbMCA2 has a structural effect on the enzyme in the vicinity of the S2 binding pocket. Collectively, these data give new insights into the substrate specificity, and Ca2+ activation of TbMCA2. This provides important functional details and leads to a better understanding of metacaspases, which are known to play an important role in trypanosomes, and make attractive drug targets due to their absence in humans.
Metacaspase; substrate specificity; structural modification; kinetic parameters; calcium binding
African trypanosomiasis, caused by Trypanosoma brucei species, leads to both neurological and cardiac dysfunction and can be fatal if untreated. While the neurological-related pathogenesis is well studied, the cardiac pathogenesis remains unknown. The current study exposed isolated ventricular cardiomyocytes and adult rat hearts to T. brucei to test whether trypanosomes can alter cardiac function independent of a systemic inflammatory/immune response.
Methods and results
Using confocal imaging, T. brucei and T. brucei culture media (supernatant) caused an increased frequency of arrhythmogenic spontaneous diastolic sarcoplasmic reticulum (SR)-mediated Ca2+ release (Ca2+ waves) in isolated adult rat ventricular cardiomyocytes. Studies utilising inhibitors, recombinant protein and RNAi all demonstrated that this altered SR function was due to T. brucei cathepsin-L (TbCatL). Separate experiments revealed that TbCatL induced a 10–15% increase of SERCA activity but reduced SR Ca2+ content, suggesting a concomitant increased SR-mediated Ca2+ leak. This conclusion was supported by data demonstrating that TbCatL increased Ca2+ wave frequency. These effects were abolished by autocamtide-2-related inhibitory peptide, highlighting a role for CaMKII in the TbCatL action on SR function. Isolated Langendorff perfused whole heart experiments confirmed that supernatant caused an increased number of arrhythmic events.
These data demonstrate for the first time that African trypanosomes alter cardiac function independent of a systemic immune response, via a mechanism involving extracellular cathepsin-L-mediated changes in SR function.
Sarcoplasmic reticulum; Cardiomyocyte; Calcium; Trypanosomiasis; Trypanosome
The single gene encoding cyclopropane fatty acid synthetase (CFAS) is present in Leishmania infantum, L. mexicana and L. braziliensis but absent from L. major, a causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis. In L. infantum, usually causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis, the CFAS gene is transcribed in both insect (extracellular) and host (intracellular) stages of the parasite life cycle. Tagged CFAS protein is stably detected in intracellular L. infantum but only during the early log phase of extracellular growth, when it shows partial localisation to the endoplasmic reticulum. Lipid analyses of L. infantum wild type, CFAS null and complemented parasites detect a low abundance CFAS-dependent C19Δ fatty acid, characteristic of a cyclopropanated species, in wild type and add-back cells. Sub-cellular fractionation studies locate the C19Δ fatty acid to both ER and plasma membrane-enriched fractions. This fatty acid is not detectable in wild type L. major, although expression of the L. infantum CFAS gene in L. major generates cyclopropanated fatty acids, indicating that the substrate for this modification is present in L. major, despite the absence of the modifying enzyme. Loss of the L. infantum CFAS gene does not affect extracellular parasite growth, phagocytosis or early survival in macrophages. However, while endocytosis is also unaffected in the extracellular CFAS nulls, membrane transporter activity is defective and the null parasites are more resistant to oxidative stress. Following infection in vivo, L. infantum CFAS nulls exhibit lower parasite burdens in both the liver and spleen of susceptible hosts but it has not been possible to complement this phenotype, suggesting that loss of C19Δ fatty acid may lead to irreversible changes in cell physiology that cannot be rescued by re-expression. Aberrant cyclopropanation in L. major decreases parasite virulence but does not influence parasite tissue tropism.
Background: ATG4 is a cysteine peptidase crucial for macroautophagy.
Results: Gene deletion mutants show that the two ATG4s of Leishmania perform distinct roles, although there is some redundancy.
Conclusion: ATG4s are not individually essential but macroautophagy, a process important in the virulence of the parasite, requires one.
Significance: Highlights the distinct roles of ATG4 isoforms and their importance for autophagy and parasite infectivity.
Macroautophagy in Leishmania, which is important for the cellular remodeling required during differentiation, relies upon the hydrolytic activity of two ATG4 cysteine peptidases (ATG4.1 and ATG4.2). We have investigated the individual contributions of each ATG4 to Leishmania major by generating individual gene deletion mutants (Δatg4.1 and Δatg4.2); double mutants could not be generated, indicating that ATG4 activity is required for parasite viability. Both mutants were viable as promastigotes and infected macrophages in vitro and mice, but Δatg4.2 survived poorly irrespective of infection with promastigotes or amastigotes, whereas this was the case only when promastigotes of Δatg4.1 were used. Promastigotes of Δatg4.2 but not Δatg4.1 were more susceptible than wild type promastigotes to starvation and oxidative stresses, which correlated with increased reactive oxygen species levels and oxidatively damaged proteins in the cells as well as impaired mitochondrial function. The antioxidant N-acetylcysteine reversed this phenotype, reducing both basal and induced autophagy and restoring mitochondrial function, indicating a relationship between reactive oxygen species levels and autophagy. Deletion of ATG4.2 had a more dramatic effect upon autophagy than did deletion of ATG4.1. This phenotype is consistent with a reduced efficiency in the autophagic process in Δatg4.2, possibly due to ATG4.2 having a key role in removal of ATG8 from mature autophagosomes and thus facilitating delivery to the lysosomal network. These findings show that there is a level of functional redundancy between the two ATG4s, and that ATG4.2 appears to be the more important. Moreover, the low infectivity of Δatg4.2 demonstrates that autophagy is important for the virulence of the parasite.
Autophagy; Cysteine Protease; Leishmania; Parasite; Parasite Metabolism; Peptidases; Protease; ATG4
► Trypanosomes evade the immune response by antigenic variation. ► Trypanosomes also remove immune effectors from the surface by endocytosis. ► Partially defective endocytic uptake does not compromise mouse infectivity. ► Recycling pathway defects do compromise mouse infectivity.
Endocytosis in the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei, is intimately involved in maintaining homeostasis of the cell surface proteome, morphology of the flagellar pocket and has recently been demonstrated as a bona fide drug target. RNAi-mediated knockdown of many factors required for endocytic transport, including several small GTPases, the major coat protein clathrin and a clathrin-associated receptor, epsinR, results in rapid cell death in vitro. Rapid loss of viability in vitro precludes meaningful investigation by RNAi of the roles of trypanosome endocytosis in vivo. Here we have sought to address this issue using strategies designed to produce milder effects on the endocytic system than complete functional ablation. We created a trypanosome clathrin heavy chain hemizygote and several lines expressing mutant forms of Rab5 and Rab11, described previously. All are viable in in vitro culture, with negligible impact to proliferative rates or cell cycle. Clathrin hemizygotes express clathrin heavy chain at ∼50% of wild type levels, but despite this demonstrate no defect to growth in mice, while none of the Rab5 mutants affected proliferation in vivo, despite clear evidence for effects on endocytosis. By contrast we find that expressing a dominantly active Rab11 mutant led to compromised growth in mice. These data indicate that trypanosomes likely tolerate the effects of partly decreased clathrin expression and alterations in early endocytosis, but are more sensitive to alterations in the recycling arm of the pathway.
Trypanosome; Protein transport; Vesicle trafficking; Endocytosis; Recycling
An understanding of host–parasite interplay is essential for the development of therapeutics and vaccines. Immunoparasitologists have learned a great deal from ‘conventional’ in vitro and in vivo approaches, but recent developments in imaging technologies have provided us (immunologists and parasitologists) with the ability to ask new and exciting questions about the dynamic nature of the parasite–immune system interface. These studies are providing us with new insights into the mechanisms involved in the initiation of a Leishmania infection and the consequent induction and regulation of the immune response. Here, we review some of the recent developments and discuss how these observations can be further developed to understand the immunology of cutaneous Leishmania infection in vivo.
Leishmania; Immunology; Microscopy
Cysteine peptidases have been implicated in the development and pathogenesis of Eimeria. We have identified a single-copy cathepsin B-like cysteine peptidase gene in the genome database of Eimeria tenella (EtCatB). Molecular modeling of the predicted protein suggested that it differs significantly from host enzymes and could be a good drug target. EtCatB was expressed and secreted as a soluble, active, glycosylated mature enzyme from Pichia pastoris. Biochemical characterization of the recombinant enzyme confirmed that it is cathepsin B-like. Screening of a focused library against the enzyme identified three inhibitors (a nitrile, a thiosemicarbazone, and an oxazolone) that can be used as leads for novel drug discovery against Eimeria. The oxazolone scaffold is a novel cysteine peptidase inhibitor; it may thus find widespread use.
The poultry disease coccidiosis, caused by infection with Eimeria spp. apicomplexan parasites, is responsible for enormous economic losses to the global poultry industry. The rapid increase of resistance to therapeutic agents, as well as the expense of vaccination with live attenuated vaccines, requires the development of new effective treatments for coccidiosis. Because of their key regulatory function in the eukaryotic cell cycle, cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are prominent drug targets. The Eimeria tenella CDC2-related kinase 2 (EtCRK2) is a validated drug target that can be activated in vitro by the CDK activator XlRINGO (Xenopus laevis
rapid inducer of G2/M progression in oocytes). Bioinformatics analyses revealed four putative E. tenella cyclins (EtCYCs) that are closely related to cyclins found in the human apicomplexan parasite Plasmodium falciparum. EtCYC3a was cloned, expressed in Escherichia coli and purified in a complex with EtCRK2. Using the non-radioactive time-resolved fluorescence energy transfer (TR-FRET) assay, we demonstrated the ability of EtCYC3a to activate EtCRK2 as shown previously for XlRINGO. The EtCRK2/EtCYC3a complex was used for a combined in vitro and in silico high-throughput screening approach, which resulted in three lead structures, a naphthoquinone, an 8-hydroxyquinoline and a 2-pyrimidinyl-aminopiperidine-propane-2-ol. This constitutes a promising starting point for the subsequent lead optimization phase and the development of novel anticoccidial drugs.
Macroautophagy has been shown to be important for the cellular remodelling required for Leishmania differentiation. We now demonstrate that L. major contains a functional ATG12-ATG5 conjugation system, which is required for ATG8-dependent autophagosome formation. Nascent autophagosomes were found commonly associated with the mitochondrion. L. major mutants lacking ATG5 (Δatg5) were viable as promastigotes but were unable to form autophagosomes, had morphological abnormalities including a much reduced flagellum, were less able to differentiate and had greatly reduced virulence to macrophages and mice. Analyses of the lipid metabolome of Δatg5 revealed marked elevation of phosphatidylethanolamines (PE) in comparison to wild type parasites. The Δatg5 mutants also had increased mitochondrial mass but reduced mitochondrial membrane potential and higher levels of reactive oxygen species. These findings indicate that the lack of ATG5 and autophagy leads to perturbation of the phospholipid balance in the mitochondrion, possibly through ablation of membrane use and conjugation of mitochondrial PE to ATG8 for autophagosome biogenesis, resulting in a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired oxidative ability and energy generation. The overall result of this is reduced virulence.
Leishmaniasis is a disease of humans that is of major significance throughout many parts of the world. It is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania and mammals are infected through the bite of a sand fly in which the parasite develops. Parasite remodelling crucial for generation of the human-infective forms is aided by the catabolic process known as autophagy in which cell material is packaged within organelles called autophagosomes and subsequently broken down in the digestive lysosomal compartment. Here we show that autophagy in Leishmania requires the coordinated actions of two pathways, one of which involves a protein called ATG5. We have generated parasite mutants lacking this protein and shown that ATG5 is required for both autophagosome formation and also maintenance of a fully functional mitochondrion. The mutants lacking ATG5 have increased mitochondrial mass and phospholipid content, high levels of oxidants and reduced membrane potential, all being hallmarks of a dysfunctional mitochondrion with impaired ability for energy generation. Our results have thus revealed that a functional autophagic pathway is crucial for phospholipid homeostasis and mitochondrial function in the parasite and important for the parasite's differentiation, infectivity and virulence to its mammalian host.
We have evaluated the roles of key amino acids to the action of the natural inhibitor chagasin of papain-family cysteine peptidases. A W93A substitution decreased inhibitor affinity for human cathepsin L 100-fold, while substitutions of T31 resulted in 10–100-fold increases in the Ki for cruzipain of Trypanosoma cruzi. A T31A/T32A double mutant had increased affinity for cathepsin L but not for cruzipain, while the T31-T32 deletion drastically affected inhibition of both human and parasite peptidases. These differential effects reflect the occurrence of direct interactions between chagasin and helix 8 of cathepsin L, interactions that do not occur with cruzipain.
Z-Phe-Arg-MCA, carbobenzoxy-phenylalanyl-arginyl-7-amido-4-methylcoumarin; PBS, phosphate buffered saline; cruzain, recombinant cruzipain truncated at the C-terminal extension; DTT, dithiothreitol; EDTA, ethylenidiaminetetracetic acid disodium salt 2-hydrate; E-64, l-trans-epoxysuccinylleucylamido-(4-guanidino) butane; IPTG, isopropyl-β-d-thiogalactopyranoside; Chagasin; Cysteine peptidase; Inhibitor; Mutant; Trypanosoma
Autophagy is the degradative process by which eukaryotic cells digest their own components using acid hydrolases within the lysosome. Originally thought to function almost exclusively in providing starving cells with nutrients taken from their own cellular constituents, autophagy is in fact involved in numerous cellular events including differentiation, turnover of macromolecules and organelles and defense against parasitic invaders. During the past 10–20 years, molecular components of the autophagic machinery have been discovered, revealing a complex interactome of proteins and lipids, which, in a concerted way, induce membrane formation to engulf cellular material and target it for lysosomal degradation. Here, our emphasis is autophagy in protists. We discuss experimental and genomic data indicating that the canonical autophagy machinery characterized in animals and fungi appeared prior to the radiation of major eukaryotic lineages. Moreover, we describe how comparative bioinformatics revealed that this canonical machinery has been subject to moderation, outright loss or elaboration on multiple occasions in protist lineages, most probably as a consequence of diverse lifestyle adaptations. We also review experimental studies illustrating how several pathogenic protists either utilize autophagy mechanisms or manipulate host-cell autophagy in order to establish or maintain infection within a host. The essentiality of autophagy for the pathogenicity of many parasites, and the unique features of some of the autophagy-related proteins involved, suggest possible new targets for drug discovery. Further studies of the molecular details of autophagy in protists will undoubtedly enhance our understanding of the diversity and complexity of this cellular phenomenon and the opportunities it offers as a drug target.
autophagy; ubiquitination; pexophagy; evolution; free-living protist; parasitic protist; life-cycle differentiation, Trypanosomatidae; Apicomplexa; drug discovery
Microtubule severing enzymes regulate microtubule dynamics in a wide range of organisms and are implicated in important cell cycle processes such as mitotic spindle assembly and disassembly, chromosome movement and cytokinesis. Here we explore the function of several microtubule severing enzyme homologues, the katanins (KAT80, KAT60a, KAT60b and KAT60c), spastin (SPA) and fidgetin (FID) in the bloodstream stage of the African trypanosome parasite, Trypanosoma brucei. The trypanosome cytoskeleton is microtubule based and remains assembled throughout the cell cycle, necessitating its remodelling during cytokinesis. Using RNA interference to deplete individual proteins, we show that the trypanosome katanin and spastin homologues are non-redundant and essential for bloodstream form proliferation. Further, cell cycle analysis revealed that these proteins play essential but discrete roles in cytokinesis. The KAT60 proteins each appear to be important during the early stages of cytokinesis, while downregulation of KAT80 specifically inhibited furrow ingression and SPA depletion prevented completion of abscission. In contrast, RNA interference of FID did not result in any discernible effects. We propose that the stable microtubule cytoskeleton of T. brucei necessitates the coordinated action of a family of katanins and spastin to bring about the cytoskeletal remodelling necessary to complete cell division.
Apicomplexan parasites encompass several human-pathogenic as well as animal-pathogenic protozoans like Plasmodium falciparum, Toxoplasma gondii, and Eimeria tenella. E. tenella is the causative agent of coccidiosis a disease of chickens, which causes tremendous economic losses to the world poultry industry. Considerable increase of drug resistance makes it necessary to develop and pursue new therapeutic strategies. Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) are key molecules in the regulation of the cell cycle and are therefore prominent target proteins in parasitic diseases. Bioinformatic analysis revealed four potential CDK-like proteins of which one – E. tenella CDK-related kinase 2 (EtCRK2) – is already cloned, expressed and characterized. Using the CDK specific inhibitor Flavopiridol in EtCRK2 enzyme assays and schizont maturation assays we could chemically validate CDK-like proteins as potential drug targets. An X-ray crystal structure of human CDK2 (HsCDK2) served as template to built protein models of EtCRK2 by comparative homology modeling. Structural differences in the ATP-binding site between EtCRK2 and HsCDK2 as well as chicken CDK3 have been addressed for the optimization of selective ATP-competitive inhibitors. Virtual screening and “wet-bench” high throughput screening campaigns on large compound libraries resulted in an initial set of hit compounds. These compounds were further analyzed and characterized leading to a set of four promising lead compounds inhibiting EtCRK2.
Coccidiosis; Virtual Screening; Transferases; Drug Discovery; Bioinformatics
Cysteine proteases of the papain superfamily are present in nearly all eukaryotes and also play pivotal roles in the biology of parasites. Inhibition of cysteine proteases is emerging as an important strategy to combat parasitic diseases such as sleeping sickness, Chagas’ disease and leishmaniasis. Inspired by the in vivo antiparasitic activity of the vinyl sulfone based cysteine protease inhibitors (CPIs), a series of α-ketoheterocycles 1-15 has been developed as reversible inhibitors of a recombinant L. mexicana cysteine protease CPB2.8. The isoxazoles 1-3 and especially the oxadiazole 15 are potent reversible inhibitors of CPB2.8, however, in vitro whole-organism screening against a panel of protozoan parasites did not fully correlate with the observed inhibition of the cysteine protease.
cysteine proteases; inhibitors; ketoheterocycle; parasite CPB; Trypanosoma
Leishmania major, an intracellular parasitic protozoon that infects, differentiates and replicates within macrophages, encodes two closely related MIF-like proteins, which have only ~20% amino acid identity with mammalian MIF. Recombinant L. major MIF1 and MIF2 have been expressed and the structures, resolved by X-ray crystallography, show a trimeric ring architecture similar to mammalian MIF but with some structurally distinct features. LmjMIF1, but not LmjMIF2, has tautomerase activity, indicating that the LmjMIFs have evolved potentially different biological roles. This is further demonstrated by the differential life cycle expression of the proteins. LmjMIF2 is found in all life cycle stages whereas LmjMIF1 is found exclusively in amastigotes, the intracellular stage responsible for mammalian disease. The findings are consistent with parasite MIFs modulating or circumventing the host macrophage response and thereby promoting parasite survival, however analysis of the L. braziliensis genome showed that this species lacks intact MIF genes - highlighting that MIF is not a virulence factor in all species of Leishmania.
The morphological events involved in the Leishmania major promastigote cell cycle have been investigated in order to provide a detailed description of the chronological processes by which the parasite replicates its set of single-copy organelles and generates a daughter cell. Immunofluorescence labeling of β-tubulin was used to follow the dynamics of the subcellular cytoskeleton and to monitor the division of the nucleus via visualization of the mitotic spindle, while RAB11 was found to be a useful marker to track flagellar pocket division and to follow mitochondrial DNA (kinetoplast) segregation. Classification and quantification of these morphological events were used to determine the durations of phases of the cell cycle. Our results demonstrate that in L. major promastigotes, the extrusion of the daughter flagellum precedes the onset of mitosis, which in turn ends after kinetoplast segregation, and that significant remodelling of cell shape accompanies mitosis and cytokinesis. These findings contribute to a more complete foundation for future studies of cell cycle control in Leishmania.
Background: Metacaspases are multifunctional cysteine peptidases.
Results: Trypanosoma brucei metacaspase 4 is a catalytically inactive metacaspase homologue required for parasite virulence, which interacts with an active parasite metacaspase during release from the cell.
Conclusion: Metacaspase 4 is a pseudopeptidase virulence factor.
Significance: Extracellular release and proteolytic processing provide novel insights into metacaspase function.
Metacaspases are caspase family cysteine peptidases found in plants, fungi, and protozoa but not mammals. Trypanosoma brucei is unusual in having five metacaspases (MCA1–MCA5), of which MCA1 and MCA4 have active site substitutions, making them possible non-enzymatic homologues. Here we demonstrate that recombinant MCA4 lacks detectable peptidase activity despite maintaining a functional peptidase structure. MCA4 is expressed primarily in the bloodstream form of the parasite and associates with the flagellar membrane via dual myristoylation/palmitoylation. Loss of function phenotyping revealed critical roles for MCA4; rapid depletion by RNAi caused lethal disruption to the parasite's cell cycle, yet the generation of MCA4 null mutant parasites (Δmca4) was possible. Δmca4 had normal growth in axenic culture but markedly reduced virulence in mice. Further analysis revealed that MCA4 is released from the parasite and is specifically processed by MCA3, the only metacaspase that is both palmitoylated and enzymatically active. Accordingly, we have identified that the multiple metacaspases in T. brucei form a membrane-associated proteolytic cascade to generate a pseudopeptidase virulence factor.
Caspase; Cysteine Protease; Enzyme Mutation; Parasite; Secretion; Trypanosoma brucei; Pseudopeptidase; Virulence Factor; Cysteine Peptidase; Caspase Family
► TLR-4 activation by Leishmania mexicana promastigotes and CPB-deficient amastigotes. ► Prolonged, TLR-4 dependent iNOS and COX-2 expression by L. mexicana promastigotes. ► Enhanced TLR-4 dependent-arginase-1 expression. ► Regulation of IL-12 induction by an arginase-1 dependent mechanism.
The effects of Leishmania mexicana metacyclic promastigotes upon MAP kinase signalling in mouse bone marrow macrophages and subsequent expression of the disease regulatory proteins iNOS and COX-2 were studied. At a ratio of 5:1, promastigotes caused a marked increase in phosphorylation of the three major MAP kinases, ERK, p38 and JNK. MAP kinase signalling was substantially reduced in TLR-4−/− but not TLR-2−/− deficient macrophages and completely abolished in double TLR-2/4−/− macrophages. A similar outcome was observed using cysteine peptidase B deficient amastigotes. Furthermore, whilst promastigotes had no independent effect on iNOS or COX-2 expression, they prolonged the induction of these proteins stimulated by LPS and enhanced PGE2 and NO production. Induction of COX-2 and iNOS was also TLR-4 dependent. Blockade of either PGE2 or NO production with indomethacin or l-NAME reversed promastigote inhibition of LPS induced IL-12 production. Promastigotes also increased macrophage arginase-1 expression and enhanced arginase activity, both of which were substantially reduced in TLR-4 but not TLR-2 deficient macrophages. Surprisingly, arginase inhibition by Nor-NOHA also caused a reversal of promastigote mediated inhibition of macrophage IL-12 production. These data demonstrate for the first time the role of TLR-4 in mediating the effects of L. mexicana promastigotes on MAP kinase activation, up-regulation of COX-2, iNOS as well as arginase-1 expression in macrophages and further shows that PGE2, NO and arginase activity all contribute substantially to the inhibition of host cell IL-12 production.
Leishmania mexicana; Promastigotes; TLR-4; MAP kinase; Arginase-1; IL-12
Oligopeptidase B is a clan SC, family S9 serine peptidase found in gram positive bacteria, plants and trypanosomatids. Evidence suggests it is a virulence factor and thus therapeutic target in both Trypanosoma cruzi and T. brucei, but little is known about its function in Leishmania. In this study L. major OPB-deficient mutants (Δopb) were created. These grew normally as promastigotes, had a small deficiency in their ability to undergo differentiation to metacyclic promastigotes, were significantly less able to infect and survive within macrophages in vitro, but were virulent to mice. These data suggest that L. major OPB itself is not an important virulence factor, indicating functional differences between trypanosomes and Leishmania in their interaction with the mammalian host. The possibility that an OPB-like enzyme (designated OPB2) in L. major might compensate for the loss of OPB in Δopb was investigated via by mapping its sequence onto the 1.6 Å structure of L. major OPB. This suggested that the residues involved in the S1 and S2 subsites of OPB2 are identical to OPB and hence the substrate specificity would be similar. Consequently there may be redundancy between the two enzymes.
Leishmania major is a protozoan parasite that causes skin ulcerations in cutaneous leishmaniasis. In the mammalian host, the parasite resides in professional phagocytes and has evolved to avoid killing by macrophages. We identified L. major genes encoding inhibitors of serine peptidases, ISPs, which are orthologues of bacterial ecotins and found that ISP2 inhibits trypsin-fold S1A family peptidases. Here we show that L. major mutants deficient in ISP2 and ISP3 (Δisp2/3) trigger higher phagocytosis by macrophages through a combined action of the complement type-3 receptor (CR3), toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) and unregulated activity of neutrophil elastase (NE), leading to parasite killing. While all three components are required to mediate enhanced parasite uptake, only TLR4 and NE are necessary to promote parasite killing after infection. We found that the production of superoxide by macrophages in the absence of ISP2 is the main mechanism controlling the intracellular infection. Furthermore, we show that NE modulates macrophage infection in vivo, and that the lack of ISP leads to reduced parasite burdens at later stages of the infection. Our findings support the hypothesis that ISPs function to prevent the activation of TLR4 by NE during the Leishmania-macrophage interaction in order to promote parasite survival and growth.
Leishmania alternates between two morphologically different stages, promastigotes and amastigotes. While the majority of reports focused on how the promastigote form can alter macrophage (Mφ) signaling and function, fewer reports investigated signaling alterations mediated by amastigotes, and there is a lack of comparative studies. In this study, we performed a comparison between the ability of both forms of the parasite to alter Mφ signaling and functions. Here, we show that both promastigotes and amastigotes were able to rapidly activate host protein tyrosine phosphatases (PTPs), importantly the Src homology 2 domain-containing PTP (SHP-1). However, we found that PTP-1B is specifically activated by promastigote but not amastigote infection and that lmcpb−/− promastigotes were no longer able to activate PTP-1B. We also show a similarity in the way promastigotes and amastigotes inactivate the transcription factors (TFs) STAT-1α and AP-1, but we show differences in the modulation of NF-κB, with promastigotes cleaving the p65 subunit, generating a smaller p35 subunit, and amastigotes fully degrading the p65 subunit with no p35 production. Importantly, we show that the cysteine proteinase LmCPb plays a key role in the alteration of NF-κB, STAT-1α, and AP-1 by promastigote and amastigote infections, ultimately leading to the inability of these TFs to translocate to the nucleus in response to gamma interferon (IFN-γ) stimulation and thus contributing to the ability of both parasite forms to effectively block IFN-γ-mediated nitric oxide (NO) production in Mφs.
Oligopeptidase B (OPB) is a serine peptidase with dibasic substrate specificity. It is found in bacteria, plants, and trypanosomatid pathogens, where it has been identified as a virulence factor and potential drug target. In this study we expressed active recombinant Leishmania major OPB and provide the first structure of an oligopeptidase B at high resolution. The crystallographic study reveals that OPB comprises two domains, a catalytic and a propeller domain, linked together by a hinge region. The structure has been determined in complex with the oligopeptide, protease-inhibitor antipain, giving detailed information on the enzyme active site and extended substrate binding pockets. It shows that Glu-621 plays a critical role in the S1 binding pocket and, along with Phe-603, is largely responsible for the enzyme substrate specificity in P1. In the S2 binding pocket, Tyr-499 was shown to be important for substrate stability. The structure also allowed an investigation into the function of residues highlighted in other studies including Glu-623, which was predicted to be involved in the S1 binding pocket but is found forming an inter-domain hydrogen bond. Additional important salt bridges/hydrogen bonds between the two domains were observed, highlighting the significance of the domain interface in OPB. This work provides a foundation for the study of the role of OPBs as virulence factors in trypanosomatids. It could facilitate the development of specific OPB inhibitors with therapeutic potential by exploiting its unique substrate recognition properties as well as providing a model for OPBs in general.
Enzyme Mechanisms; Parasitology; Peptidases; Protein Structure; Serine Protease; Leishmania major; Oligopeptidase B