Ablation of a small transmembrane protein of Trypanosoma brucei (TbVTC1) involved in the synthesis of polyphosphate alters acidocalcisome biogenesis and function, and leads to a cytokinesis defect

Biochem J. 2007 Oct 15;407(2):161-70. doi: 10.1042/BJ20070612.


Inorganic poly P (polyphosphate) is an abundant component of acidocalcisomes of Trypanosoma brucei. In the present study we report the presence of a protein homologous with the yeast Vtc1p (vacuolar transporter chaperone 1) in T. brucei that is essential for poly P synthesis, acidocalcisome biogenesis and cytokinesis. Localization studies in a cell line expressing a TbVTC1 fused to GFP (green fluorescent protein) revealed its co-localization with the V-H+-PPase (vacuolar H+-pyrophosphatase), a marker for acidocalcisomes. Western blot analysis of acidocalcisome fractions and immunogold electron microscopy using polyclonal antibodies against a fragment of TbVTC1 confirmed the acidocalcisome localization. Ablation of TbVTC1 expression by RNA interference caused an abnormal morphology of acidocalcisomes, indicating that their biogenesis was disturbed, with a decreased pyrophosphate-driven H+ uptake and Ca2+ content, a significant decrease in the amount of poly P and a deficient response to hyposmotic stress. Ablation of TbVTC1 expression for longer periods produced marked gross morphological alterations compatible with a defect in cytokinesis, followed by cell death. Overexpression of the TbVTC1 gene caused mild alterations in growth rate, but had no perceptible effect on acidocalcisome morphology. We propose that the PP(i)-driven H+ pumping deficiency induced by ablation of TbVTC1 leads to alterations in the protonmotive force of acidocalcisomes, which results in deficient fusion or budding of the organelles, decreased H+ and Ca2+ content, and decreased synthesis of poly P. A decrease in the poly P content would lead to osmotic sensitivity and defects in cytokinesis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium
  • Cytokinesis*
  • Membrane Proteins / physiology*
  • Organelles*
  • Osmosis
  • Polyphosphates / metabolism*
  • Proton Pumps
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / enzymology*
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / genetics
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei / ultrastructure
  • Vacuolar Proton-Translocating ATPases / metabolism
  • Vacuolar Proton-Translocating ATPases / physiology*


  • Membrane Proteins
  • Polyphosphates
  • Proton Pumps
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • VTC1 protein, Trypanosoma brucei
  • Vacuolar Proton-Translocating ATPases
  • Calcium