The gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase gene of Leishmania is essential and involved in response to oxidants

Mol Microbiol. 2009 Nov;74(4):914-27. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2009.06907.x. Epub 2009 Oct 8.


Gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase, encoded by the GSH1 gene, is the rate-limiting enzyme in the biosynthesis of glutathione and of trypanothione in Leishmania. The importance of GSH1 was assessed by generating GSH1 null mutants in Leishmania infantum. Removal of even a single wild-type allelic copy of GSH1 invariably led to the generation of an extra copy of GSH1, maintaining two intact wild-type alleles. However, by first supplementing the parasites with a rescue plasmid, we succeeded in obtaining both a single and null chromosomal GSH1 mutants. Parasites with one intact GSH1 chromosomal allele lost the rescuing plasmid but not the double knockout, when grown in the absence of antibiotic, indicating the essentiality of the GSH1 gene in Leishmania. Heterozygous mutants with one allele-inactivated transcribed less GSH1 mRNA and synthesized less glutathione and trypanothione. These mutants were more susceptible to oxidative stresses in vitro as promastigotes and showed decreased survival inside activated macrophages producing reactive oxygen or nitrogen species. These mutants showed a significant decreased survival in the presence of antimony (SbV) compared with control cells. All phenotypes were reverted in the add-back mutant, thus proving the importance of thiols in dealing with oxidants including the action of antimonials.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimony / toxicity
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Gene Deletion
  • Genes, Essential*
  • Genetic Complementation Test
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / genetics
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase / physiology*
  • Glutathione / analogs & derivatives
  • Glutathione / biosynthesis
  • Leishmania infantum / enzymology*
  • Leishmania infantum / genetics
  • Leishmania infantum / physiology*
  • Macrophages / immunology
  • Macrophages / parasitology
  • Oxidants / toxicity*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Spermidine / analogs & derivatives
  • Spermidine / biosynthesis
  • Stress, Physiological*


  • Oxidants
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • trypanothione
  • Antimony
  • Glutamate-Cysteine Ligase
  • Glutathione
  • Spermidine