The parasite-specific trypanothione metabolism of trypanosoma and leishmania

Biol Chem. 2003 Apr;384(4):539-49. doi: 10.1515/BC.2003.062.


The bis(glutathionyl)spermidine trypanothione exclusively occurs in parasitic protozoa of the order Kinetoplastida, such as trypanosomes and leishmania, some of which are the causative agents of several tropical diseases. The dithiol is kept reduced by the flavoenzyme trypanothione reductase and the trypanothione system replaces in these parasites the nearly ubiquitous glutathione/glutathione reductase couple. Trypanothione is a reductant of thioredoxin and tryparedoxin, small dithiol proteins, which in turn deliver reducing equivalents for the synthesis of deoxyribonucleotides as well as for the detoxification of hydroperoxides by different peroxidases. Depending on the individual organism and the developmental state, the parasites also contain significant amounts of glutathione, mono-glutathionylspermidine and ovothiol, whereby all four low molecular mass thiols are directly (trypanothione and mono-glutathionylspermidine) or indirectly (glutathione and ovothiol) maintained in the reduced state by trypanothione reductase. Thus the trypanothione system is central for any thiol regeneration and trypanothione reductase has been shown to be an essential enzyme in these parasites. The absence of this pathway from the mammalian host and the sensitivity of trypanosomatids toward oxidative stress render the enzymes of the trypanothione metabolism attractive target molecules for the rational development of new drugs against African sleeping sickness, Chagas' disease and the different forms of leishmaniasis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • DNA / biosynthesis
  • Glutathione / analogs & derivatives*
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis
  • Glutathione / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Leishmania / metabolism*
  • Metals / metabolism
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations / metabolism
  • Spermidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Spermidine / biosynthesis
  • Spermidine / metabolism*
  • Thioredoxins / metabolism
  • Trypanosoma / metabolism*


  • Metals
  • Pharmaceutical Preparations
  • tryparedoxin
  • Thioredoxins
  • DNA
  • trypanothione
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • trypanothione reductase
  • Glutathione
  • Spermidine

Associated data

  • GENBANK/AF503571
  • GENBANK/AL354513