Establishment of quantitative RNAi-based forward genetics in Entamoeba histolytica and identification of genes required for growth

PLoS Pathog. 2021 Nov 29;17(11):e1010088. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010088. eCollection 2021 Nov.


While Entamoeba histolytica remains a globally important pathogen, it is dramatically understudied. The tractability of E. histolytica has historically been limited, which is largely due to challenging features of its genome. To enable forward genetics, we constructed and validated the first genome-wide E. histolytica RNAi knockdown mutant library. This library allows for Illumina deep sequencing analysis for quantitative identification of mutants that are enriched or depleted after selection. We developed a novel analysis pipeline to precisely define and quantify gene fragments. We used the library to perform the first RNAi screen in E. histolytica and identified slow growth (SG) mutants. Among genes targeted in SG mutants, many had annotated functions consistent with roles in cellular growth or metabolic pathways. Some targeted genes were annotated as hypothetical or lacked annotated domains, supporting the power of forward genetics in uncovering functional information that cannot be gleaned from databases. While the localization of neither of the proteins targeted in SG1 nor SG2 mutants could be predicted by sequence analysis, we showed experimentally that SG1 localized to the cytoplasm and cell surface, while SG2 localized to the cytoplasm. Overexpression of SG1 led to increased growth, while expression of a truncation mutant did not lead to increased growth, and thus aided in defining functional domains in this protein. Finally, in addition to establishing forward genetics, we uncovered new details of the unusual E. histolytica RNAi pathway. These studies dramatically improve the tractability of E. histolytica and open up the possibility of applying genetics to improve understanding of this important pathogen.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Entamoeba histolytica / genetics*
  • Entamoeba histolytica / growth & development*
  • Entamoebiasis / parasitology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • Gene Library
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Genome-Wide Association Study / methods*
  • High-Throughput Nucleotide Sequencing
  • Mutation*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA Interference*


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • Protozoan Proteins