In vertebrate cells, mitochondrial Ca2+ uptake by the mitochondrial calcium uniporter (MCU) leads to Ca2+-mediated stimulation of an intramitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase (PDP). This enzyme dephosphorylates serine residues in the E1α subunit of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH), thereby activating PDH and resulting in increased ATP production. Although a phosphorylation–dephosphorylation cycle for the E1α subunit of PDH from non-vertebrate organisms has been described, the Ca2+-mediated PDP activation has not been studied. In this work we investigated the Ca2+ sensitivity of two recombinant PDPs from the protozoan human parasites Trypanosoma cruzi (TcPDP) and Trypanosoma brucei (TbPDP) and generated a TcPDP-KO cell line to establish TcPDP’s role in cell bioenergetics and survival. Moreover, the mitochondrial localization of the TcPDP was studied by CRISPR/Cas9-mediated endogenous tagging. Our results indicate that TcPDP and TbPDP both are Ca2+-sensitive phosphatases. Of note, TcPDP-KO epimastigotes exhibited increased levels of phosphorylated TcPDH, slower growth and lower oxygen consumption rates than control cells, an increased AMP:ATP ratio and autophagy under starvation conditions, and reduced differentiation into infective metacyclic forms. Furthermore, TcPDP-KO trypomastigotes were impaired in infecting culture host cells. We conclude that TcPDP is a Ca2+-stimulated mitochondrial phosphatase that dephosphorylates TcPDH and is required for normal growth, differentiation, infectivity and energy metabolism in T. cruzi. Our results support the view that one of the main roles of the MCU is linked to the regulation of intramitochondrial dehydrogenases.
Noelia Lander, Miguel A. Chiurillo, Mayara S. Bertolini, Melissa Storey, Anibal E. Vercesi and Roberto Docampo. 2018. Journal of Biological Chemistry; 293(45):17402-17417. doi: 10.1074/jbc.RA118.004498