Biochemistry and Pharmacology - Research Publications

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    Safety, infectivity and immunogenicity of a Chick for genetically attenuated blood-stage malaria updates vaccine
    Webster, R ; Sekuloski, S ; Odedra, A ; Woolley, S ; Jennings, H ; Amante, F ; Trenholme, KR ; Healer, J ; Cowman, AF ; Eriksson, EM ; Sathe, P ; Penington, J ; Blanch, AJ ; Dixon, MWA ; Tilley, L ; Duffy, MF ; Craig, A ; Storm, J ; Chan, J-A ; Evans, K ; Papenfuss, AT ; Schofield, L ; Griffin, P ; Barber, BE ; Andrew, D ; Boyle, MJ ; Rivera, FDL ; Engwerda, C ; McCarthy, JS (BMC, 2021-11-22)
    BACKGROUND: There is a clear need for novel approaches to malaria vaccine development. We aimed to develop a genetically attenuated blood-stage vaccine and test its safety, infectivity, and immunogenicity in healthy volunteers. Our approach was to target the gene encoding the knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP), which is responsible for the assembly of knob structures at the infected erythrocyte surface. Knobs are required for correct display of the polymorphic adhesion ligand P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), a key virulence determinant encoded by a repertoire of var genes. METHODS: The gene encoding KAHRP was deleted from P. falciparum 3D7 and a master cell bank was produced in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practice. Eight malaria naïve males were intravenously inoculated (day 0) with 1800 (2 subjects), 1.8 × 105 (2 subjects), or 3 × 106 viable parasites (4 subjects). Parasitemia was measured using qPCR; immunogenicity was determined using standard assays. Parasites were rescued into culture for in vitro analyses (genome sequencing, cytoadhesion assays, scanning electron microscopy, var gene expression). RESULTS: None of the subjects who were administered with 1800 or 1.8 × 105 parasites developed parasitemia; 3/4 subjects administered 3× 106 parasites developed significant parasitemia, first detected on days 13, 18, and 22. One of these three subjects developed symptoms of malaria simultaneously with influenza B (day 17; 14,022 parasites/mL); one subject developed mild symptoms on day 28 (19,956 parasites/mL); and one subject remained asymptomatic up to day 35 (5046 parasites/mL). Parasitemia rapidly cleared with artemether/lumefantrine. Parasitemia induced a parasite-specific antibody and cell-mediated immune response. Parasites cultured ex vivo exhibited genotypic and phenotypic properties similar to inoculated parasites, although the var gene expression profile changed during growth in vivo. CONCLUSIONS: This study represents the first clinical investigation of a genetically attenuated blood-stage human malaria vaccine. A P. falciparum 3D7 kahrp- strain was tested in vivo and found to be immunogenic but can lead to patent parasitemia at high doses. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Australian New Zealand Clinical Trials Registry (number: ACTRN12617000824369 ; date: 06 June 2017).
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    Investigation of the Plasmodium falciparum Food Vacuole through Inducible Expression of the Chloroquine Resistance Transporter (PfCRT)
    Ehlgen, F ; Pham, JS ; de Koning-Ward, T ; Cowman, AF ; Ralph, SA ; Snounou, G (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-06-13)
    Haemoglobin degradation during the erythrocytic life stages is the major function of the food vacuole (FV) of Plasmodium falciparum and the target of several anti-malarial drugs that interfere with this metabolic pathway, killing the parasite. Two multi-spanning food vacuole membrane proteins are known, the multidrug resistance protein 1 (PfMDR1) and Chloroquine Resistance Transporter (PfCRT). Both modulate resistance to drugs that act in the food vacuole. To investigate the formation and behaviour of the food vacuole membrane we have generated inducible GFP fusions of chloroquine sensitive and resistant forms of the PfCRT protein. The inducible expression system allowed us to follow newly-induced fusion proteins, and corroborated a previous report of a direct trafficking route from the ER/Golgi to the food vacuole membrane. These parasites also allowed the definition of a food vacuole compartment in ring stage parasites well before haemozoin crystals were apparent, as well as the elucidation of secondary PfCRT-labelled compartments adjacent to the food vacuole in late stage parasites. We demonstrated that in addition to previously demonstrated Brefeldin A sensitivity, the trafficking of PfCRT is disrupted by Dynasore, a non competitive inhibitor of dynamin-mediated vesicle formation. Chloroquine sensitivity was not altered in parasites over-expressing chloroquine resistant or sensitive forms of the PfCRT fused to GFP, suggesting that the PfCRT does not mediate chloroquine transport as a GFP fusion protein.
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    Spatial Localisation of Actin Filaments across Developmental Stages of the Malaria Parasite
    Angrisano, F ; Riglar, DT ; Sturm, A ; Volz, JC ; Delves, MJ ; Zuccala, ES ; Turnbull, L ; Dekiwadia, C ; Olshina, MA ; Marapana, DS ; Wong, W ; Mollard, V ; Bradin, CH ; Tonkin, CJ ; Gunning, PW ; Ralph, SA ; Whitchurch, CB ; Sinden, RE ; Cowman, AF ; McFadden, GI ; Baum, J ; Templeton, TJ (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2012-02-28)
    Actin dynamics have been implicated in a variety of developmental processes during the malaria parasite lifecycle. Parasite motility, in particular, is thought to critically depend on an actomyosin motor located in the outer pellicle of the parasite cell. Efforts to understand the diverse roles actin plays have, however, been hampered by an inability to detect microfilaments under native conditions. To visualise the spatial dynamics of actin we generated a parasite-specific actin antibody that shows preferential recognition of filamentous actin and applied this tool to different lifecycle stages (merozoites, sporozoites and ookinetes) of the human and mouse malaria parasite species Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei along with tachyzoites from the related apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. Actin filament distribution was found associated with three core compartments: the nuclear periphery, pellicular membranes of motile or invasive parasite forms and in a ring-like distribution at the tight junction during merozoite invasion of erythrocytes in both human and mouse malaria parasites. Localisation at the nuclear periphery is consistent with an emerging role of actin in facilitating parasite gene regulation. During invasion, we show that the actin ring at the parasite-host cell tight junction is dependent on dynamic filament turnover. Super-resolution imaging places this ring posterior to, and not concentric with, the junction marker rhoptry neck protein 4. This implies motor force relies on the engagement of dynamic microfilaments at zones of traction, though not necessarily directly through receptor-ligand interactions at sites of adhesion during invasion. Combined, these observations extend current understanding of the diverse roles actin plays in malaria parasite development and apicomplexan cell motility, in particular refining understanding on the linkage of the internal parasite gliding motor with the extra-cellular milieu.
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    An EGF-like Protein Forms a Complex with PfRh5 and Is Required for Invasion of Human Erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum
    Chen, L ; Lopaticki, S ; Riglar, DT ; Dekiwadia, C ; Uboldi, AD ; Tham, W-H ; O'Neill, MT ; Richard, D ; Baum, J ; Ralph, SA ; Cowman, AF ; Blackman, MJ (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-09-01)
    Invasion of erythrocytes by Plasmodium falciparum involves a complex cascade of protein-protein interactions between parasite ligands and host receptors. The reticulocyte binding-like homologue (PfRh) protein family is involved in binding to and initiating entry of the invasive merozoite into erythrocytes. An important member of this family is PfRh5. Using ion-exchange chromatography, immunoprecipitation and mass spectroscopy, we have identified a novel cysteine-rich protein we have called P. falciparumRh5 interacting protein (PfRipr) (PFC1045c), which forms a complex with PfRh5 in merozoites. Mature PfRipr has a molecular weight of 123 kDa with 10 epidermal growth factor-like domains and 87 cysteine residues distributed along the protein. In mature schizont stages this protein is processed into two polypeptides that associate and form a complex with PfRh5. The PfRipr protein localises to the apical end of the merozoites in micronemes whilst PfRh5 is contained within rhoptries and both are released during invasion when they form a complex that is shed into the culture supernatant. Antibodies to PfRipr1 potently inhibit merozoite attachment and invasion into human red blood cells consistent with this complex playing an essential role in this process.
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    Plasmodium falciparum Merozoite Invasion Is Inhibited by Antibodies that Target the PfRh2a and b Binding Domains
    Triglia, T ; Chen, L ; Lopaticki, S ; Dekiwadia, C ; Riglar, DT ; Hodder, AN ; Ralph, SA ; Baum, J ; Cowman, AF ; Kazura, JW (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-06-01)
    Plasmodium falciparum, the causative agent of the most severe form of malaria in humans invades erythrocytes using multiple ligand-receptor interactions. The P. falciparum reticulocyte binding-like homologue proteins (PfRh or PfRBL) are important for entry of the invasive merozoite form of the parasite into red blood cells. We have analysed two members of this protein family, PfRh2a and PfRh2b, and show they undergo a complex series of proteolytic cleavage events before and during merozoite invasion. We show that PfRh2a undergoes a cleavage event in the transmembrane region during invasion consistent with activity of the membrane associated PfROM4 protease that would result in release of the ectodomain into the supernatant. We also show that PfRh2a and PfRh2b bind to red blood cells and have defined the erythrocyte-binding domain to a 15 kDa region at the N-terminus of each protein. Antibodies to this receptor-binding region block merozoite invasion demonstrating the important function of this domain. This region of PfRh2a and PfRh2b has potential in a combination vaccine with other erythrocyte binding ligands for induction of antibodies that would block a broad range of invasion pathways for P. falciparum into human erythrocytes.
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    Expression of P. falciparum var Genes Involves Exchange of the Histone Variant H2A.Z at the Promoter
    Petter, M ; Lee, CC ; Byrne, TJ ; Boysen, KE ; Volz, J ; Ralph, SA ; Cowman, AF ; Brown, GV ; Duffy, MF ; Deitsch, K (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2011-02-01)
    Plasmodium falciparum employs antigenic variation to evade the human immune response by switching the expression of different variant surface antigens encoded by the var gene family. Epigenetic mechanisms including histone modifications and sub-nuclear compartmentalization contribute to transcriptional regulation in the malaria parasite, in particular to control antigenic variation. Another mechanism of epigenetic control is the exchange of canonical histones with alternative variants to generate functionally specialized chromatin domains. Here we demonstrate that the alternative histone PfH2A.Z is associated with the epigenetic regulation of var genes. In many eukaryotic organisms the histone variant H2A.Z mediates an open chromatin structure at promoters and facilitates diverse levels of regulation, including transcriptional activation. Throughout the asexual, intraerythrocytic lifecycle of P. falciparum we found that the P. falciparum ortholog of H2A.Z (PfH2A.Z) colocalizes with histone modifications that are characteristic of transcriptionally-permissive euchromatin, but not with markers of heterochromatin. Consistent with this finding, antibodies to PfH2A.Z co-precipitate the permissive modification H3K4me3. By chromatin-immunoprecipitation we show that PfH2A.Z is enriched in nucleosomes around the transcription start site (TSS) in both transcriptionally active and silent stage-specific genes. In var genes, however, PfH2A.Z is enriched at the TSS only during active transcription in ring stage parasites. Thus, in contrast to other genes, temporal var gene regulation involves histone variant exchange at promoter nucleosomes. Sir2 histone deacetylases are important for var gene silencing and their yeast ortholog antagonises H2A.Z function in subtelomeric yeast genes. In immature P. falciparum parasites lacking Sir2A or Sir2B high var transcription levels correlate with enrichment of PfH2A.Z at the TSS. As Sir2A knock out parasites mature the var genes are silenced, but PfH2A.Z remains enriched at the TSS of var genes; in contrast, PfH2A.Z is lost from the TSS of de-repressed var genes in mature Sir2B knock out parasites. This result indicates that PfH2A.Z occupancy at the active var promoter is antagonized by PfSir2A during the intraerythrocytic life cycle. We conclude that PfH2A.Z contributes to the nucleosome architecture at promoters and is regulated dynamically in active var genes.
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    A Genome-wide Chromatin-associated Nuclear Peroxiredoxin from the Malaria Parasite Plasmodium falciparum
    Richard, D ; Bartfai, R ; Volz, J ; Ralph, SA ; Muller, S ; Stunnenberg, HG ; Cowman, AF (AMER SOC BIOCHEMISTRY MOLECULAR BIOLOGY INC, 2011-04-01)
    Malaria parasites are subjected to high levels of oxidative stress during their development inside erythrocytes and the ability of the parasite to defend itself against this assault is critical to its survival. Therefore, Plasmodium possesses an effective antioxidant defense system that could potentially be used as a target for the development of inhibitor-based therapy. We have identified an unusual peroxiredoxin protein that localizes to the nucleus of Plasmodium falciparum and have renamed it PfnPrx (PF10_0268, earlier called MCP1). Our work reveals that PfnPrx has a broad specificity of substrate being able to utilize thioredoxin and glutaredoxin as reductants and having the ability to reduce simple and complex peroxides. Intriguingly, chromatin immunoprecipitation followed by deep sequencing reveals that the enzyme associates with chromatin in a genome-wide manner with a slight enrichment in coding regions. Our results represent the first description of a dedicated chromatin-associated peroxiredoxin and potentially represent an ingenious way by which the parasite can survive the highly oxidative environment within its human host.
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    Interaction between Plasmodium falciparum Apical Membrane Antigen 1 and the Rhoptry Neck Protein Complex Defines a Key Step in the Erythrocyte Invasion Process of Malaria Parasites
    Richard, D ; MacRaild, CA ; Riglar, DT ; Chan, J-A ; Foley, M ; Baum, J ; Ralph, SA ; Norton, RS ; Cowman, AF (AMER SOC BIOCHEMISTRY MOLECULAR BIOLOGY INC, 2010-05-07)
    Invasion of host cells by apicomplexan parasites, including Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii, is a multistep process. Central to invasion is the formation of a tight junction, an aperture in the host cell through which the parasite pulls itself before settling into a newly formed parasitophorous vacuole. Two protein groups, derived from different secretory organelles, the micronemal protein AMA1 and the rhoptry proteins RON2, RON4, and RON5, have been shown to form part of this structure, with antibodies targeting P. falciparum AMA1 known to inhibit invasion, probably via disruption of its association with the PfRON proteins. Inhibitory AMA1-binding peptides have also been described that block P. falciparum merozoite invasion of the erythrocyte. One of these, R1, blocks invasion some time after initial attachment to the erythrocyte and reorientation of the merozoite to its apical pole. Here we show that the R1 peptide binds the PfAMA1 hydrophobic trough and demonstrate that binding to this region prevents its interaction with the PfRON complex. We show that this defined association between PfAMA1 and the PfRON complex occurs after reorientation and engagement of the actomyosin motor and argue that it precedes rhoptry release. We propose that the formation of the AMA1-RON complex is essential for secretion of the rhoptry contents, which then allows the establishment of parasite infection within the parasitophorous vacuole.
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    Plasmodium falciparum Heterochromatin Protein 1 Marks Genomic Loci Linked to Phenotypic Variation of Exported Virulence Factors
    Flueck, C ; Bartfai, R ; Volz, J ; Niederwieser, I ; Salcedo-Amaya, AM ; Alako, BTF ; Ehlgen, F ; Ralph, SA ; Cowman, AF ; Bozdech, Z ; Stunnenberg, HG ; Voss, TS ; Deitsch, K (PUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE, 2009-09-01)
    Epigenetic processes are the main conductors of phenotypic variation in eukaryotes. The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum employs antigenic variation of the major surface antigen PfEMP1, encoded by 60 var genes, to evade acquired immune responses. Antigenic variation of PfEMP1 occurs through in situ switches in mono-allelic var gene transcription, which is PfSIR2-dependent and associated with the presence of repressive H3K9me3 marks at silenced loci. Here, we show that P. falciparum heterochromatin protein 1 (PfHP1) binds specifically to H3K9me3 but not to other repressive histone methyl marks. Based on nuclear fractionation and detailed immuno-localization assays, PfHP1 constitutes a major component of heterochromatin in perinuclear chromosome end clusters. High-resolution genome-wide chromatin immuno-precipitation demonstrates the striking association of PfHP1 with virulence gene arrays in subtelomeric and chromosome-internal islands and a high correlation with previously mapped H3K9me3 marks. These include not only var genes, but also the majority of P. falciparum lineage-specific gene families coding for exported proteins involved in host-parasite interactions. In addition, we identified a number of PfHP1-bound genes that were not enriched in H3K9me3, many of which code for proteins expressed during invasion or at different life cycle stages. Interestingly, PfHP1 is absent from centromeric regions, implying important differences in centromere biology between P. falciparum and its human host. Over-expression of PfHP1 results in an enhancement of variegated expression and highlights the presence of well-defined heterochromatic boundaries. In summary, we identify PfHP1 as a major effector of virulence gene silencing and phenotypic variation. Our results are instrumental for our understanding of this widely used survival strategy in unicellular pathogens.
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    The Metabolite Repair Enzyme Phosphoglycolate Phosphatase Regulates Central Carbon Metabolism and Fosmidomycin Sensitivity in Plasmodium falciparum
    Dumont, L ; Richardson, MB ; van der Peet, P ; Marapana, DS ; Triglia, T ; Dixon, MWA ; Cowman, AF ; Williams, SJ ; Tilley, L ; McConville, MJ ; Cobbold, SA ; David Sibley, L (AMER SOC MICROBIOLOGY, 2019-11-01)
    Members of the haloacid dehalogenase (HAD) family of metabolite phosphatases play an important role in regulating multiple pathways in Plasmodium falciparum central carbon metabolism. We show that the P. falciparum HAD protein, phosphoglycolate phosphatase (PGP), regulates glycolysis and pentose pathway flux in asexual blood stages via detoxifying the damaged metabolite 4-phosphoerythronate (4-PE). Disruption of the P. falciparum pgp gene caused accumulation of two previously uncharacterized metabolites, 2-phospholactate and 4-PE. 4-PE is a putative side product of the glycolytic enzyme, glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase, and its accumulation inhibits the pentose phosphate pathway enzyme, 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6-PGD). Inhibition of 6-PGD by 4-PE leads to an unexpected feedback response that includes increased flux into the pentose phosphate pathway as a result of partial inhibition of upper glycolysis, with concomitant increased sensitivity to antimalarials that target pathways downstream of glycolysis. These results highlight the role of metabolite detoxification in regulating central carbon metabolism and drug sensitivity of the malaria parasite.IMPORTANCE The malaria parasite has a voracious appetite, requiring large amounts of glucose and nutrients for its rapid growth and proliferation inside human red blood cells. The host cell is resource rich, but this is a double-edged sword; nutrient excess can lead to undesirable metabolic reactions and harmful by-products. Here, we demonstrate that the parasite possesses a metabolite repair enzyme (PGP) that suppresses harmful metabolic by-products (via substrate dephosphorylation) and allows the parasite to maintain central carbon metabolism. Loss of PGP leads to the accumulation of two damaged metabolites and causes a domino effect of metabolic dysregulation. Accumulation of one damaged metabolite inhibits an essential enzyme in the pentose phosphate pathway, leading to substrate accumulation and secondary inhibition of glycolysis. This work highlights how the parasite coordinates metabolic flux by eliminating harmful metabolic by-products to ensure rapid proliferation in its resource-rich niche.