Leishmania subtilisin is a maturase for the trypanothione reductase system and contributes to disease pathology

J Biol Chem. 2010 Oct 8;285(41):31120-9. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M110.114462. Epub 2010 Jul 30.


Proteases are a ubiquitous group of enzymes that play key roles in the life cycle of parasites, in the host-parasite relationship, and in the pathogenesis of parasitic diseases. Furthermore, proteases are druggable targets for the development of new anti-parasitic therapy. The subtilisin protease (SUB; Clan SB, family S8) of Leishmania donovani was cloned and found to possess a unique catalytic triad. This gene was then deleted by gene knock-out, which resulted in reduced ability by the parasite to undergo promastigote to amastigote differentiation in vitro. Electron microscopy of SUB knock-out amastigotes revealed abnormal membrane structures, retained flagella, and increased binucleation. SUB-deficient Leishmania displayed reduced virulence in both hamster and murine infection models. Histology of spleens from SUB knock-out-infected hamsters revealed the absence of psammoma body calcifications indicative of the granulomatous lesions that occur during Leishmania infection. To delineate the specific role of SUB in parasite physiology, two-dimensional gel electrophoresis was carried out on SUB(-/-) versus wild-type parasites. SUB knock-out parasites showed altered regulation of the terminal peroxidases of the trypanothione reductase system. Leishmania and other trypanosomatids lack glutathione reductase, and therefore rely on the novel trypanothione reductase system to detoxify reactive oxygen intermediates and to maintain redox homeostasis. The predominant tryparedoxin peroxidases were decreased in SUB(-/-) parasites, and higher molecular weight isoforms were present, indicating altered processing. In addition, knock-out parasites showed increased sensitivity to hydroperoxide. These data suggest that subtilisin is the maturase for tryparedoxin peroxidases and is necessary for full virulence.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cricetinae
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Female
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Hydrogen Peroxide / pharmacology
  • Leishmania donovani / enzymology*
  • Leishmania donovani / genetics
  • Leishmania donovani / pathogenicity*
  • Male
  • Mesocricetus
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / genetics
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases / metabolism*
  • Oxidants / pharmacology
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Subtilisin / genetics
  • Subtilisin / metabolism*


  • Oxidants
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Hydrogen Peroxide
  • NADH, NADPH Oxidoreductases
  • trypanothione reductase
  • Subtilisin