Gene organization of a Plasmodium falciparum serine hydroxymethyltransferase and its functional expression in Escherichia coli

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2000 Oct;110(2):283-91. doi: 10.1016/s0166-6851(00)00282-6.


The global emergence of drug-resistant malarial parasites necessitates identification and characterization of novel drug targets. Three reactions are involved in methylenetetrahydrofolate recycling: Thymidylate synthase (TS), dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR), and serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT). Malarial bifunctional DHFR-TS is a well-studied, important target of established drugs such as pyrimethamine and cycloguanil. In sharp contrast, malarial SHMT remains largely uncharacterized. In the present study, a Plasmodium falciparum SHMT coding region was characterized. It had 1603 bp including two introns near the 5'-end of the gene: one 118 bp intron immediately after the start methionine and a 159 bp intron after an additional 34 amino acids. The three exons together coded for a 442 amino acid protein with 38-47% identity to SHMT sequences from other species. Expression of malarial SHMT coding sequence (minus the introns) into glyA mutants of Escherichia coli relieved glycine auxotrophy and permitted direct assay of SHMT catalytic activity in bacterial cell lysates. This is the first SHMT cloned and expressed from a protozoan parasite. The molecular tools developed in this study will be useful for developing potential antimalarials directed at SHMT.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Complementary
  • Escherichia coli / enzymology
  • Escherichia coli / genetics*
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Glycine Hydroxymethyltransferase / chemistry
  • Glycine Hydroxymethyltransferase / genetics*
  • Glycine Hydroxymethyltransferase / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / enzymology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Complementary
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Glycine Hydroxymethyltransferase