Repository logo

Functional expression of Trypanosoma congolense pyroglutamyl peptidase type 1 and development of reverse genetics tools.

Thumbnail Image



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Trypanosoma congolense is a protozoan parasite transmitted by tsetse flies. It causes bovine trypanosomosis, the major disease for livestock in sub-Saharan Africa. Control methods include trypanocidal drugs and vector control, but none is fully satisfactory, due to resistance and environmental issues. A method that would have the greatest impact on controlling the disease is vaccination. However, development of a conventional vaccine has been hampered by the mechanism of antigenic variation, which allows the parasite to evade the host’s immune system. An alternative strategy in vaccine design is to target the bioactive compounds released by dead and dying trypanosomes. This approach is termed ‘‘anti-disease’’, and does not affect the survival of the parasite but targets the pathogenic factors released by the trypanosomes. The development of a successful anti-disease vaccine necessitates knowledge of all pathogenic factors involved in the disease process. Several macromolecules, primarily peptidases, have been implicated in the pathogenesis of trypanosomosis. Pyroglutamyl peptidase type I (PGP) was shown to be involved in abnormal degradation of thyrotropin- and gonadotropin-releasing hormones in rodents infected with T. brucei, but to date no data are available on the T. congolense PGP. Molecular cloning and expression in E. coli of the coding sequence of T. congolense PGP, as well as the enzymatic characterisation of the recombinant protein, are reported here, completed by the development of reverse genetics tools for studies of gene function. A 678 bp PCR fragment covering the complete open reading frame of PGP was cloned and sequenced. The deduced amino acid sequence showed 52% and 29% identity with the T. brucei and Leishmania major enzymes respectively. The catalytic residues Glu, Cys and His described in Bacilus amyloliquefaciens PGP are conserved in the T. congolense sequence. PGP was expressed in bacterial systems as a soluble active, 26 kDa enzyme. The recombinant enzyme showed activity specific for the fluorescent substrate pGlu-AMC, with a kcat/Km of 1.11 s-1μM. PGP showed activity in the pH 6.5-10 range, with maximal activity at pH 9.0. The enzyme was strongly inhibited by sulfhydryl-blocking reagents such as iodoacetic acid and iodoacetamide with a kass of 125 M-1 s-1 and 177 M-1 s-1 respectively. Antibodies raised in chickens against the recombinant enzyme allowed the detection of native PGP in both procyclic and bloodstream T. congolense developmental stages, and displayed complete inhibition of the enzyme in vitro at physiological concentrations. To get insight into the role of PGP in parasite biology and trypanosomosis progression, two types of vectors for reverse genetics studies were developed. For RNA interference, a 400 bp 3′ end segment of the PGP open reading frame was cloned into the plasmid p2T7Ti, that will allow PGP gene down-regulation upon integration into the genome of an engineered tetracycline-inducible strain such as TRUM:29-13. For gene knock-out, several rounds of molecular engineering were carried-out in order to create two plasmid vectors, pGL1184-based (blasticidin resistance) and pGL1217-based (neomycin resistance), each bearing 200 bp-long regions at the 5′ and 3′ ends of the PGP open reading frame. In subsequent studies, taking advantage of the recent advances in culture and transformation of T. congolense, these plasmids will allow the creation of single and double knock-out mutants of PGP.


Thesis (M.Sc.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2012.


Trypanosomiasis in animals--Vaccination., Livestock--Trypanotolerance., Trypanosoma., Theses--Biochemistry.