PNT1 is a C11 cysteine peptidase essential for replication of the trypanosome kinetoplast

Jaspreet S. Grewal, Karen McLuskey, Debanu Das, Elmarie Myburgh, Jonathan Wilkes, Elaine Brown, Leandro Lemgruber, Matthew K. Gould, Richard J. Burchmore, Graham H. Coombs, Achim Schnaufer, Jeremy C. Mottram

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2 Citations (Scopus)
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The structure of a C11 peptidase PmC11 from the gut bacterium, Parabacteroides merdae, has recently been determined, enabling the identification and characterization of a C11 orthologue, PNT1, in the parasitic protozoon Trypanosoma brucei. A phylogenetic analysis identified PmC11 orthologues in bacteria, archaea, Chromerids, Coccidia, and Kinetoplastida, the latter being the most divergent. A primary sequence alignment of PNT1 with clostripain and PmC11 revealed the position of the characteristic His-Cys catalytic dyad (His99 and Cys136), and an Asp (Asp134) in the potential S1 binding site. Immunofluorescence and cryoelectron microscopy revealed that PNT1 localizes to the kinetoplast, an organelle containing the mitochondrial genome of the parasite (kDNA), with an accumulation of the protein at or near the antipodal sites. Depletion of PNT1 by RNAi in the T. brucei bloodstream form was lethal both in in vitro culture and in vivo in mice and the induced population accumulated cells lacking a kinetoplast. In contrast, overexpression of PNT1 led to cells having mislocated kinetoplasts. RNAi depletion of PNT1 in a kDNA independent cell line resulted in kinetoplast loss but was viable, indicating that PNT1 is required exclusively for kinetoplast maintenance. Expression of a recoded wild-type PNT1 allele, but not of an active site mutant restored parasite viability after induction in vitro and in vivo confirming that the peptidase activity of PNT1 is essential for parasite survival. These data provide evidence that PNT1 is a cysteine peptidase that is required exclusively for maintenance of the trypanosome kinetoplast.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9492-9500
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number18
Early online date3 Mar 2016
Publication statusPublished - 29 Apr 2016


  • microscopy
  • parasite
  • peptidase
  • RNA interference (RNAi)
  • Trypanosoma brucei

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