Characterisation of Plasmodium and Trypanosoma brucei GPR89 Homologues as candidate environmental sensors
Milne, Rachel Mary
Plasmodium spp. and Trypanosoma brucei spp. are protozoan parasites with complex lifecycles, each having to adapt to the diverse environments of their insect vector and mammalian host. Each has multiple developmental forms that differ in their morphology and metabolism. Differentiation between these forms is a tightly regulated and often synchronised process in response to changes in the parasite's environment. The molecular mechanisms by which they perceive and respond to such environmental changes are largely unknown. The Plasmodium and T. brucei genomes encode a homologue of the phylogenetically widespread GPR89 family of putative receptors or channels. The mammalian GPR89 homologue has been implicated in the regulation of Golgo acidification, whilst in plants it has been shown to be involved in G protein signally pathways. This study set out to characterise the Plasmodium and T. brucei GPR89 proteins in order to assess their potential role as environmental sensors. Bioinformatic analyses demonstrated that the GPR89 proteins are a highly divergent family of multi-transmembrane domain proteins that may perform a channel or transporter function. Several expression strategies were employed to evaluate the role of the GPR89 proteins. Functional insight was gained from the ectopic expression of both the T. brucei and Arabidopsis thaliana GPR89 proteins in T. Brucei cells. Over-expression of TbGPR98 causes premature stumpy formation in pleomorphic T. brucei cells. This phenotype was replicated by over-expression of a A. thaliana homologue in T. brucei despite signigicatnt sequence divergence. Furthermore, both were demonstrated to act on the same pathway as the putatuve RNA binding protein, RBP7 that was receontly identified in a genome-wide screen for components of the stumpy differentiation pathway. Hence, TbGPR89 is likely a compnent of the slender to stumpy differentiation pathway in bloodstream form trypanosomes and there appears to be functional complementarity between T. brucei and A. thaliana GPR89 proteins.