Regulated expression of an essential allosteric activator of polyamine biosynthesis in African trypanosomes

Erin K. Willert, Margaret A. Phillips

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Abstract

Trypanosoma brucei is the causative agent of African sleeping sickness. The polyamine biosynthetic pathway has the distinction of being the target of the only clinically proven anti-trypanosomal drug with a known mechanism of action. Polyamines are essential for cell growth, and their metabolism is extensively regulated. However, trypanosomatids appear to lack the regulatory control mechanisms described in other eukaryotic cells. In T. brucei, S-adenosylmethionine decarboxylase (AdoMetDC) and ornithine decarboxylase (ODC) are required for the synthesis of polyamines and also for the unique redox-cofactor trypanothione. Further, trypanosomatid AdoMetDC is activated by heterodimer formation with a catalytically dead homolog termed prozyme, found only in these species. To study polyamine regulation in T. brucei, we generated inducible AdoMetDC RNAi and prozyme conditional knockouts in the mammalian blood form stage. Depletion of either protein led to a reduction in spermidine and trypanothione and to parasite death, demonstrating that prozyme activation of AdoMetDC is essential. Under typical growth conditions, prozyme concentration is limiting in comparison to AdoMetDC. However, both prozyme and ODC protein levels were significantly increased relative to stable transcript levels by knockdown of AdoMetDC or its chemical inhibition. Changes in protein stability do not appear to account for the increased steady-state protein levels, as both enzymes are stable in the presence of cycloheximide. These observations suggest that prozyme and ODC are translationally regulated in response to perturbations in the pathway. In conclusion, we describe the first evidence for regulation of polyamine biosynthesis in T. brucei and we demonstrate that the unique regulatory subunit of AdoMetDC is a key component of this regulation. The data support ODC and AdoMetDC as the key control points in the pathway and the likely rate-limiting steps in polyamine biosynthesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1000183
JournalPLoS pathogens
Volume4
Issue number10
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 1 2008

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ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology

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