The enzymes of the 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate synthetic pathway are found exclusively in the cytosol of the trypanosomatid parasite Leishmania major

Tim J. Vickers, Silvane M.F. Murta, Michael A. Mandell, Stephen M. Beverley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations

Abstract

In most organisms 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate (10-CHO-THF) participates in the synthesis of purines in the cytosol and formylation of mitochondrial initiator methionyl-tRNAMet. Here we studied 10-CHO-THF biosynthesis in the protozoan parasite Leishmania major, a purine auxotroph. Two distinct synthetic enzymes are known, a bifunctional methylene-tetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase/cyclohydrolase (DHCH) or formyl-tetrahydrofolate ligase (FTL), and phylogenomic profiling revealed considerable diversity for these in trypanosomatids. All species surveyed contain a DHCH1, which was shown recently to be essential in L. major. A second DHCH2 occurred only in L. infantum, L. mexicana and T. cruzi, and as a pseudogene in L. major. DHCH2s bear N-terminal extensions and we showed a LiDHCH2-GFP fusion was targeted to the mitochondrion. FTLs were found in all species except Trypanosoma brucei. L. major ftl- null mutants were phenotypically normal in growth, differentiation, animal infectivity and sensitivity to a panel of pteridine analogs, but grew more slowly when starved for serine or glycine, as expected for amino acids that are substrates in C1-folate metabolism. Cell fractionation and western blotting showed that both L. major DHCH1 and FTL were localized to the cytosol and not the mitochondrion. These localization data predict that in L. major cytosolic 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate must be transported into the mitochondrion to support methionyl-tRNAMet formylation. The retention in all the trypanosomatids of at least one enzyme involved in 10-formyl-tetrahydrofolate biosynthesis, and the essentiality of this metabolite in L. major, suggests that this pathway represents a promising new area for chemotherapeutic attack in these parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)142-152
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Volume166
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2009

Keywords

  • Formyl tetrahydrofolate ligase
  • Formyl-methionyl-tRNA
  • Glycine
  • Methylene tetrahydrofolate cyclohydrolase/dehydrogenase
  • Serine
  • Virulence

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