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1.  The Synthesis of UDP-N-acetylglucosamine Is Essential for Bloodstream Form Trypanosoma brucei in Vitro and in Vivo and UDP-N-acetylglucosamine Starvation Reveals a Hierarchy in Parasite Protein Glycosylation*S⃞ 
The Journal of Biological Chemistry  2008;283(23):16147-16161.
A gene encoding Trypanosoma brucei UDP-N-acetylglucosamine pyrophosphorylase was identified, and the recombinant protein was shown to have enzymatic activity. The parasite enzyme is unusual in having a strict substrate specificity for N-acetylglucosamine 1-phosphate and in being located inside a peroxisome-like microbody, the glycosome. A bloodstream form T. brucei conditional null mutant was constructed and shown to be unable to sustain growth in vitro or in vivo under nonpermissive conditions, demonstrating that there are no alternative metabolic or nutritional routes to UDP-N-acetylglucosamine and providing a genetic validation for the enzyme as a potential drug target. The conditional null mutant was also used to investigate the effects of N-acetylglucosamine starvation in the parasite. After 48 h under nonpermissive conditions, about 24 h before cell lysis, the status of parasite glycoprotein glycosylation was assessed. Under these conditions, UDP-N-acetylglucosamine levels were less than 5% of wild type. Lectin blotting and fluorescence microscopy with tomato lectin revealed that poly-N-acetyllactosamine structures were greatly reduced in the parasite. The principal parasite surface coat component, the variant surface glycoprotein, was also analyzed. Endoglycosidase digestions and mass spectrometry showed that, under UDP-N-acetylglucosamine starvation, the variant surface glycoprotein was specifically underglycosylated at its C-terminal Asn-428 N-glycosylation site. The significance of this finding, with respect to the hierarchy of site-specific N-glycosylation in T. brucei, is discussed.
doi:10.1074/jbc.M709581200
PMCID: PMC2414269  PMID: 18381290
2.  Trypanosoma brucei UDP-galactose-4′-epimerase in ternary complex with NAD+ and the substrate analogue UDP-4-deoxy-4-fluoro-α-d-galactose 
The structure of recombinant T. brucei UDP-galactose-4′-epimerase cocrystallized with NAD+ and the substrate analogue UDP-4-deoxy-4-fluoro-α-d-galactose has been determined at medium resolution. Comparisons with structures of human and E. coli UDP-galactose-4′-epimerase–ligand complexes reveal that the hexose moieties are able to adopt different orientations in the active site.
The structure of the NAD-dependent oxidoreductase UDP-galactose-4′-epimerase from Trypanosoma brucei in complex with cofactor and the substrate analogue UDP-4-deoxy-4-fluoro-α-d-galactose has been determined using diffraction data to 2.7 Å resolution. Despite the high level of sequence and structure conservation between the trypanosomatid enzyme and those from humans, yeast and bacteria, the binding of the 4-fluoro-α-d-galactose moiety is distinct from previously reported structures. Of particular note is the observation that when bound to the T. brucei enzyme, the galactose moiety of this fluoro-derivative is rotated approximately 180° with respect to the orientation of the hexose component of UDP-glucose when in complex with the human enzyme. The architecture of the catalytic centre is designed to effectively bind different orientations of the hexose, a finding that is consistent with a mechanism that requires the sugar to maintain a degree of flexibility within the active site.
doi:10.1107/S1744309106028740
PMCID: PMC2242870  PMID: 16946458
short-chain dehydrogenase/reductases; Trypanosoma brucei; UDP-galactose-4′-epimerase; UDP-4-deoxy-4-fluoro-α-d-galactose

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