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Category: publications

Analysis of Long Non-Coding RNA in Cryptosporidium parvum Reveals Significant Stage-Specific Antisense Transcription

Cryptosporidium is a protist parasite that has been identified as the second leading cause of moderate to severe diarrhea in children younger than two and a significant cause of mortality worldwide. Cryptosporidium has a complex, obligate, intracellular but extra cytoplasmic lifecycle in a single host. How genes are regulated in this parasite remains largely unknown. Long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) play critical regulatory roles, including gene expression across a broad range of organisms. Cryptosporidium lncRNAs have been reported to enter the host cell nucleus and affect the host response. However, no systematic study of lncRNAs in Cryptosporidium has been conducted to identify additional lncRNAs. In this study, we analyzed a C. parvum in vitro strand-specific RNA-seq developmental time series covering both asexual and sexual stages to identify lncRNAs associated with parasite development. In total, we identified 396 novel lncRNAs, mostly antisense, with 86% being differentially expressed. Surprisingly, nearly 10% of annotated mRNAs have an antisense transcript. lncRNAs occur most often at the 3′ end of their corresponding sense mRNA. Putative lncRNA regulatory regions were identified and many appear to encode bidirectional promoters. A positive correlation between lncRNA and upstream mRNA expression was observed. Evolutionary conservation and expression of lncRNA candidates was observed between C. parvumC. hominis and C. baileyi. Ten C. parvum protein-encoding genes with antisense transcripts have P. falciparum orthologs that also have antisense transcripts. Three C. parvum lncRNAs with exceptional properties (e.g., intron splicing) were experimentally validated using RT-PCR and RT-qPCR. This initial characterization of the C. parvum non-coding transcriptome facilitates further investigations into the roles of lncRNAs in parasite development and host-pathogen interactions.

Yiran Li, Rodrigo P. Baptista, Adam Sateriale, Boris Striepen and Jessica C. Kissinger. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2021 Jan 14;10:608298. doi: 10.3389/fcimb.2020.608298. eCollection 2020.

The Inositol Pyrophosphate Biosynthetic Pathway of Trypanosoma cruzi

Inositol phosphates (IPs) are phosphorylated derivatives of myo-inositol involved in the regulation of several cellular processes through their interaction with specific proteins. Their synthesis relies on the activity of specific kinases that use ATP as phosphate donor. Here, we combined reverse genetics and liquid chromatography coupled to mass spectrometry (LC-MS) to dissect the inositol phosphate biosynthetic pathway and its metabolic intermediates in the main life cycle stages (epimastigotes, cell-derived trypomastigotes, and amastigotes) of Trypanosoma cruzi, the etiologic agent of Chagas disease. We found evidence of the presence of highly phosphorylated IPs, like inositol hexakisphosphate (IP6), inositol heptakisphosphate (IP7), and inositol octakisphosphate (IP8), that were not detected before by HPLC analyses of the products of radiolabeled exogenous inositol. The kinases involved in their synthesis (inositol polyphosphate multikinase (TcIPMK), inositol 5-phosphate kinase (TcIP5K), and inositol 6-phosphate kinase (TcIP6K)) were also identified. TcIPMK is dispensable in epimastigotes, important for the synthesis of polyphosphate, and critical for the virulence of the infective stages. TcIP5K is essential for normal epimastigote growth, while TcIP6K mutants displayed defects in epimastigote motility and growth. Our results demonstrate the relevance of highly phosphorylated IPs in the life cycle of T. cruzi.

Brian S Mantilla, Leticia D Do Amaral, Henning J Jessen, Roberto Docampo. ACS Chem Biol. 2021 Jan 7. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.0c00759

The IP 3 receptor and Ca 2+ signaling in trypanosomes

Trypanosoma cruzi, and the T. brucei group of parasites cause neglected diseases that affect millions of people around the world. These unicellular microorganisms have complex life cycles involving an insect vector and a mammalian host. Both groups of pathogens possess an inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate (IP3)/diacylglycerol (DAG) signaling pathway, and an IP3 receptor, but with lineage-specific adaptations that make them different from their mammalian counterparts. The phospholipase C (PLC), which hydrolyzes phosphatidyl inositol 4,5-bisphosphate (PIP2) to IP3 is N-terminally myristoylated and palmitoylated. Acidocalcisomes, which are lysosome-related organelles rich in polyphosphate, are the main intracellular Ca2+ stores. The inositol 1,4,5-trisphosphate receptor (IP3R) localizes to acidocalcisomes instead of the endoplasmic reticulum. The trypanosome IP3R is stimulated by luminal phosphate and pyrophosphate, which are hydrolysis products of polyphosphate (polyP), and inhibited by tripolyphosphate (polyP3), which is the most abundant polyP in acidocalcisomes. Ca2+ signaling is important for host cell invasion and differentiation and to maintain cellular bioenergetics.

Roberto Docampo, Guozhong Huang. Biochim Biophys Acta Mol Cell Res. 2021 Jan 6;118947. doi: 10.1016/j.bbamcr.2021.118947

Affinity‐based proteomics reveals novel targets of inositol pyrophosphate (5‐IP7)‐dependent phosphorylation and binding in Trypanosoma cruzi replicative stages

Diphosphoinositol-5-pentakisphosphate (5-PP-IP5 ), also known as inositol heptakisphosphate (5-IP7 ), has been described as a high-energy phosphate metabolite that participates in the regulation of multiple cellular processes through protein binding or serine pyrophosphorylation, a post-translational modification involving a β-phosphoryl transfer. In this study, utilizing an immobilized 5-IP7 affinity reagent, we performed pull-down experiments coupled with mass spectrometry identification, and bioinformatic analysis, to reveal 5-IP7 -regulated processes in the two proliferative stages of the unicellular parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. Our protein screen clearly defined two cohorts of putative targets either in the presence of magnesium ions or in metal-free conditions. We endogenously tagged four protein candidates and immunopurified them to assess whether 5-IP7 -driven phosphorylation is conserved in T. cruzi. Among the most interesting targets, we identified a choline/o-acetyltransferase domain-containing phosphoprotein that undergoes 5-IP7 -mediated phosphorylation events at a polyserine tract (Ser578-580 ). We also identified a novel SPX domain-containing phosphoribosyl transferase [EC 2.7.6.1] herein termed as TcPRPPS4. Our data revealed new possible functional roles of 5-IP7 in this divergent eukaryote, and provided potential new targets for chemotherapy.

Brian S Mantilla, Karunakaran Kalesh, Nathaniel W Brown Jr, Dorothea Fiedler, Roberto Docampo. Mol Microbiol. 2020 Dec 22. doi: 10.1111/mmi.14672.

Evolution of the monitoring and evaluation strategies to support the World Health Organization’s Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis

The Global Programme to Eliminate Lymphatic Filariasis (GPELF) was established with the ambitious goal of eliminating LF as a public health problem. The remarkable success of the GPELF over the past 2 decades in carrying out its principal strategy of scaling up and scaling down mass drug administration has relied first on the development of a rigorous monitoring and evaluation (M&E) framework and then the willingness of the World Health Organization and its community of partners to modify this framework in response to the practical experiences of national programmes. This flexibility was facilitated by the strong partnership that developed among researchers, LF programme managers and donors willing to support the necessary research agenda. This brief review summarizes the historical evolution of the GPELF M&E strategies and highlights current research needed to achieve the elimination goal.

Patrick J Lammie, Katherine M Gass, Jonathan King, Michael S Deming, David G Addiss, Gautam Biswas, Eric A Ottesen, Ralph Henderson. Int Health. 2020 Dec 22;13(Supplement_1):S65-S70. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihaa084.

Different Sensitivity of Control and MICU1- and MICU2-Ablated Trypanosoma cruzi Mitochondrial Calcium Uniporter Complex to Ruthenium-Based Inhibitors

The mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in trypanosomatids shares biochemical characteristics with that of animals. However, the composition of the mitochondrial Ca2+ uniporter complex (MCUC) in these parasites is quite peculiar, suggesting lineage-specific adaptations. In this work, we compared the inhibitory activity of ruthenium red (RuRed) and Ru360, the most commonly used MCUC inhibitors, with that of the recently described inhibitor Ru265, on Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of Chagas disease. Ru265 was more potent than Ru360 and RuRed in inhibiting mitochondrial Ca2+ transport in permeabilized cells. When dose-response effects were investigated, an increase in sensitivity for Ru360 and Ru265 was observed in TcMICU1-KO and TcMICU2-KO cells as compared with control cells. In the presence of RuRed, a significant increase in sensitivity was observed only in TcMICU2-KO cells. However, application of Ru265 to intact cells did not affect growth and respiration of epimastigotes, mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake in Rhod-2-labeled intact cells, or attachment to host cells and infection by trypomastigotes, suggesting a low permeability for this compound in trypanosomes.

Mayara S Bertolini, Roberto Docampo. Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 7;21(23):E9316. doi: 10.3390/ijms21239316.

Towards a comprehensive research and development plan to support the control, elimination and eradication of neglected tropical diseases

To maximise the likelihood of success, global health programmes need repeated, honest appraisal of their own weaknesses, with research undertaken to address any identified gaps. There is still much to be learned to optimise work against neglected tropical diseases. To facilitate that learning, a comprehensive research and development plan is required. Here, we discuss how such a plan might be developed.

David Mabey, Ellen Agler, John H Amuasi, Leda Hernandez, T Déirdre Hollingsworth, Peter J Hotez, Patrick J Lammie, Mwelecele N Malecela, Sultani H Matendechero, Eric Ottesen, Richard O Phillips, John C Reeder, Célia Landmann Szwarcwald, Joseph P Shott, Anthony W Solomon, Andrew Steer, Soumya Swaminathan. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Nov 11;traa114. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/traa114.

The nucleocytosolic O-fucosyltransferase Spindly affects protein expression and virulence in Toxoplasma gondii

Once considered unusual, nucleocytoplasmic glycosylation is now recognized as a conserved feature of eukaryotes. While in animals O-GlcNAc transferase (OGT) modifies thousands of intracellular proteins, the human pathogen Toxoplasma gondii transfers a different sugar, fucose, to proteins involved in transcription, mRNA processing and signaling. Knockout experiments showed that TgSPY, an ortholog of plant SPINDLY and paralog of host OGT, is required for nuclear O-fucosylation. Here we verify that TgSPY is the nucleocytoplasmic O-fucosyltransferase (OFT) by 1) complementation with TgSPY-MYC3, 2) its functional dependence on amino acids critical for OGT activity, and 3) its ability to O-fucosylate itself and a model substrate and to specifically hydrolyze GDP-Fuc. While many of the endogenous proteins modified by O-Fuc are important for tachyzoite fitness, O-fucosylation by TgSPY is not essential. Growth of Δspy tachyzoites in fibroblasts is modestly affected, despite marked reductions in the levels of ectopically-expressed proteins normally modified with O-fucose. Intact TgSPY-MYC3 localizes to the nucleus and cytoplasm, whereas catalytic mutants often displayed reduced abundance. Δspy tachyzoites of a luciferase-expressing type II strain exhibited infection kinetics in mice similar to wild type but increased persistence in the chronic brain phase, potentially due to an imbalance of regulatory protein levels. The modest changes in parasite fitness in vitro and in mice, despite profound effects on reporter protein accumulation, and the characteristic punctate localization of O-fucosylated proteins, suggest that TgSPY controls the levels of proteins to be held in reserve for response to novel stresses.

Giulia Bandini, Carolina Agop-Nersesian, Hanke van der Wel, Msano Mandalasi , Hyun W Kim, Christopher M West, John Samuelson. J Biol Chem. 2020 Nov 6;jbc.RA120.015883. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA120.015883.

Diagnostics and the neglected tropical diseases roadmap: setting the agenda for 2030

Accurate and reliable diagnostic tools are an essential requirement for neglected tropical diseases (NTDs) programmes. However, the NTD community has historically underinvested in the development and improvement of diagnostic tools, potentially undermining the successes achieved over the last 2 decades. Recognizing this, the WHO, in its newly released draft roadmap for NTD 2021-2030, has identified diagnostics as one of four priority areas requiring concerted action to reach the 2030 targets. As a result, WHO established a Diagnostics Technical Advisory Group (DTAG) to serve as the collaborative mechanism to drive progress in this area. Here, the purpose and role of the DTAG are described in the context of the challenges facing NTD programmes.

Ashley A Souza, Camilla Ducker, Daniel Argaw, Jonathan D King, Anthony W Solomon, Marco A Biamonte, Rhea N Coler, Israel Cruz, Veerle Lejon, Bruno Levecke, Fabricio K Marchini, Michael Marks, Pascal Millet, Sammy M Njenga, Rahmah Noordin, René Paulussen, Esvawaran Sreekumar, Patrick J Lammie. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2020 Nov 9;traa118. doi: 10.1093/trstmh/traa118.

A modified drug regimen clears active and dormant trypanosomes in mouse models of Chagas disease

A major contributor to treatment failure in Chagas disease, caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is that current treatment regimens do not address the drug insensitivity of transiently dormant T. cruzi amastigotes. Here, we demonstrated that use of a currently available drug in a modified treatment regimen of higher individual doses, given less frequently over an extended treatment period, could consistently extinguish T. cruzi infection in three mouse models of Chagas disease. Once per week administration of benznidazole at a dose 2.5 to 5 times the standard daily dose rapidly eliminated actively replicating parasites and ultimately eradicated the residual, transiently dormant parasite population in mice. This outcome was initially confirmed in “difficult to cure” mouse infection models using immunological, parasitological, and molecular biological approaches and ultimately corroborated by whole organ analysis of optically clarified tissues using light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM). This tool was effective for monitoring pathogen load in intact organs, including detection of individual dormant parasites, and for assessing treatment outcomes. LSFM-based analysis also suggested that dormant amastigotes of T. cruzi may not be fully resistant to trypanocidal compounds such as benznidazole. Collectively, these studies provide important information on the phenomenon of dormancy in T. cruzi infection in mice, demonstrate methods to therapeutically override dormancy using a currently available drug, and provide methods to monitor alternative therapeutic approaches for this, and possibly other, low-density infectious agents.

Juan M. Bustamante, Fernando Sanchez-Valdez, Angel M. Padilla, Brooke White, Wei Wang and Rick L. Tarleton. Science Translational Medicine 28 Oct 2020: Vol. 12, Issue 567, eabb7656. DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.abb7656