Biochemistry and metabolism of Giardia

J Protozool. Mar-Apr 1989;36(2):190-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.1989.tb01073.x.


Giardia lamblia, an aerotolerant anaerobe, respires in the presence of oxygen by a flavin, iron-sulfur protein-mediated electron transport system. Glucose appears to be the only sugar catabolized by the Embden-Meyerhof-Parnas and hexose monophosphate pathways, and energy is produced by substrate level phosphorylation. Substrates are incompletely oxidized to CO2, ethanol and acetate by nonsedimentable enzymes. The lack of incorporation of inosine, hypoxanthine, xanthine, formate or glycine into nucleotides indicates an absence of de novo purine synthesis. Only adenine, adenosine, guanine and guanosine are salvaged, and no interconversion of these purines was detected. Salvage of these purines and their nucleosides is accomplished by adenine phosphoribosyltransferase, adenosine hydrolase, guanosine phosphoribosyltransferase and guanine hydrolase. The absence of de novo pyrimidine synthesis was confirmed by the lack of incorporation of bicarbonate, orotate and aspartate into nucleotides, and by the lack of detectable levels of the enzymes of de novo pyrimidine synthesis. Salvage appears to be accomplished by the action of uracil phosphoribosyltransferase, uridine hydrolase, uridine phosphotransferase, cytidine deaminase, cytidine hydrolase, cytosine phosphoribosyltransferase and thymidine phosphotransferase. Nucleotides of uracil may be converted to nucleotides of cytosine by cytidine triphosphate synthetase, but thymidylate synthetase and dihydrofolate reductase activities were not detected. Uptake of pyrmidine nucleosides, and perhaps pyrimidines, appears to be accomplished by carrier-mediated transport, and the common site for uptake of uridine and cytidine is distinct from the site for thymidine. Thymine does not appear to be incorporated into nucleotide pools. Giardia trophozoites appear to rely on preformed lipids rather than synthesizing them de novo.(ABSTRACT TRUNCATED AT 250 WORDS)

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carbohydrate Metabolism*
  • Energy Metabolism
  • Giardia / enzymology
  • Giardia / metabolism*
  • Hydrolysis
  • Lipid Metabolism*
  • Purines / metabolism*
  • Pyrimidines / metabolism*


  • Purines
  • Pyrimidines