Genetic validation of Trypanosoma brucei glutathione synthetase as an essential enzyme

Chelsea Pratt, Suong Nguyen, Margaret A. Phillips

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14 Scopus citations


Human African trypanosomiasis (HAT) is a debilitating and fatal vector-borne disease. Polyamine biosynthesis is the target of one of the key drugs (eflornithine) used for the treatment of late-stage disease, suggesting that the pathway might be exploited for the identification of additional drug targets. The polyamine spermidine is required in trypanosomatid parasites for formation of a unique redox cofactor termed trypanothione, which is formed from the conjugation of glutathione to spermidine. Here we characterize recombinant Trypanosoma brucei glutathione synthetase (TbGS) and show that depletion of TbGS in blood-form parasites using a regulated knockout strategy leads to loss of trypanothione and to cell death as quantified by fluorescence-activated cell sorter (FACS) analysis. These data suggest that >97% depletion of TbGS is required before trypanothione is depleted and cell growth arrest is observed. Exogenous glutathione was able to partially compensate for the loss of TbGS, suggesting that parasites are able to transport intact glutathione. Finally, reduced expression of TbGS leads to increased levels of upstream glutathione biosynthetic enzymes and decreased expression of polyamine biosynthetic enzymes, providing evidence that the cells cross regulate the two branches of the trypanothione biosynthetic pathway to maintain spermidine and trypanothione homeostasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)614-624
Number of pages11
JournalEukaryotic Cell
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


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