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1.  Structure and reactivity of Trypanosoma brucei pteridine reductase: inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate 
Molecular Microbiology  2006;61(6):1457-1468.
The protozoan Trypanosoma brucei has a functional pteridine reductase (TbPTR1), an NADPH-dependent short-chain reductase that participates in the salvage of pterins, which are essential for parasite growth. PTR1 displays broad-spectrum activity with pterins and folates, provides a metabolic bypass for inhibition of the trypanosomatid dihydrofolate reductase and therefore compromises the use of antifolates for treatment of trypanosomiasis. Catalytic properties of recombinant TbPTR1 and inhibition by the archetypal antifolate methotrexate have been characterized and the crystal structure of the ternary complex with cofactor NADP+ and the inhibitor determined at 2.2 Å resolution. This enzyme shares 50% amino acid sequence identity with Leishmania major PTR1 (LmPTR1) and comparisons show that the architecture of the cofactor binding site, and the catalytic centre are highly conserved, as are most interactions with the inhibitor. However, specific amino acid differences, in particular the placement of Trp221 at the side of the active site, and adjustment of the β6-α6 loop and α6 helix at one side of the substrate-binding cleft significantly reduce the size of the substrate binding site of TbPTR1 and alter the chemical properties compared with LmPTR1. A reactive Cys168, within the active site cleft, in conjunction with the C-terminus carboxyl group and His267 of a partner subunit forms a triad similar to the catalytic component of cysteine proteases. TbPTR1 therefore offers novel structural features to exploit in the search for inhibitors of therapeutic value against African trypanosomiasis.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2006.05332.x
PMCID: PMC1618733  PMID: 16968221
2.  The ethanolamine branch of the Kennedy pathway is essential in the bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei 
Molecular Microbiology  2009;73(5):826-843.
Phosphatidylethanolamine (GPEtn), a major phospholipid component of trypanosome membranes, is synthesized de novo from ethanolamine through the Kennedy pathway. Here the composition of the GPEtn molecular species in the bloodstream form of Trypanosoma brucei is determined, along with new insights into phospholipid metabolism, by in vitro and in vivo characterization of a key enzyme of the Kennedy pathway, the cytosolic ethanolamine-phosphate cytidylyltransferase (TbECT). Gene knockout indicates that TbECT is essential for growth and survival, thus highlighting the importance of the Kennedy pathway for the pathogenic stage of the African trypanosome. Phosphatiylserine decarboxylation, a potential salvage pathway, does not appear to be active in cultured bloodstream form T. brucei, and it is not upregulated even when the Kennedy pathway is disrupted. In vivo metabolic labelling and phospholipid composition analysis by ESI-MS/MS of the knockout cells confirmed a significant decrease in GPEtn species, as well as changes in the relative abundance of other phospholipid species. Reduction in GPEtn levels had a profound influence on the morphology of the mutants and it compromised mitochondrial structure and function, as well as glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchor biosynthesis. TbECT is therefore genetically validated as a potential drug target against the African trypanosome.
doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06764.x
PMCID: PMC2784872  PMID: 19555461
3.  New secreted toxins and immunity proteins encoded within the Type VI secretion system gene cluster of Serratia marcescens 
Molecular Microbiology  2012;86(4):921-936.
Protein secretion systems are critical to bacterial virulence and interactions with other organisms. The Type VI secretion system (T6SS) is found in many bacterial species and is used to target either eukaryotic cells or competitor bacteria. However, T6SS-secreted proteins have proven surprisingly elusive. Here, we identified two secreted substrates of the antibacterial T6SS from the opportunistic human pathogen, Serratia marcescens. Ssp1 and Ssp2, both encoded within the T6SS gene cluster, were confirmed as antibacterial toxins delivered by the T6SS. Four related proteins encoded around the Ssp proteins (‘Rap’ proteins) included two specifically conferring self-resistance (‘immunity’) against T6SS-dependent Ssp1 or Ssp2 toxicity. Biochemical characterization revealed specific, tight binding between cognate Ssp–Rap pairs, forming complexes of 2:2 stoichiometry. The atomic structures of two Rap proteins were solved, revealing a novel helical fold, dependent on a structural disulphide bond, a structural feature consistent with their functional localization. Homologues of the Serratia Ssp and Rap proteins are found encoded together within other T6SS gene clusters, thus they represent founder members of new families of T6SS-secreted and cognate immunity proteins. We suggest that Ssp proteins are the original substrates of the S. marcescens T6SS, before horizontal acquisition of other T6SS-secreted toxins. Molecular insight has been provided into how pathogens utilize antibacterial T6SSs to overcome competitors and succeed in polymicrobial niches.
doi:10.1111/mmi.12028
PMCID: PMC3533786  PMID: 22957938

Results 1-3 (3)