The Trypanosoma brucei cAMP phosphodiesterases TbrPDEB1 and TbrPDEB2: flagellar enzymes that are essential for parasite virulence

FASEB J. 2007 Mar;21(3):720-31. doi: 10.1096/fj.06-6818com. Epub 2006 Dec 13.


Cyclic nucleotide specific phosphodiesterases (PDEs) are pivotal regulators of cellular signaling. They are also important drug targets. Besides catalytic activity and substrate specificity, their subcellular localization and interaction with other cell components are also functionally important. In contrast to the mammalian PDEs, the significance of PDEs in protozoal pathogens remains mostly unknown. The genome of Trypanosoma brucei, the causative agent of human sleeping sickness, codes for five different PDEs. Two of these, TbrPDEB1 and TbrPDEB2, are closely similar, cAMP-specific PDEs containing two GAF-domains in their N-terminal regions. Despite their similarity, these two PDEs exhibit different subcellular localizations. TbrPDEB1 is located in the flagellum, whereas TbrPDEB2 is distributed between flagellum and cytoplasm. RNAi against the two mRNAs revealed that the two enzymes can complement each other but that a simultaneous ablation of both leads to cell death in bloodstream form trypanosomes. RNAi against TbrPDEB1 and TbrPDEB2 also functions in vivo where it completely prevents infection and eliminates ongoing infections. Our data demonstrate that TbrPDEB1 and TbrPDEB2 are essential for virulence, making them valuable potential targets for new PDE-inhibitor based trypanocidal drugs. Furthermore, they are compatible with the notion that the flagellum of T. brucei is an important site of cAMP signaling.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • 3',5'-Cyclic-AMP Phosphodiesterases / classification
  • 3',5'-Cyclic-AMP Phosphodiesterases / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / enzymology
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / pathogenicity*
  • Trypanosomiasis, African / parasitology
  • Virulence / physiology*


  • 3',5'-Cyclic-AMP Phosphodiesterases