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J Biol Chem. 2002 Aug 16;277(33):29460-7. Epub 2002 May 22.

A new type of high affinity folic acid transporter in the protozoan parasite Leishmania and deletion of its gene in methotrexate-resistant cells.

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  • 1Centre de Recherche en Infectiologie du Centre de Recherche du CHUL and Division de Microbiologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Québec G1V 4G2, Canada.


The protozoan parasite Leishmania is a folate auxotroph and thus depends on the uptake of folate from the environment to meet its folate requirement. We show here that Leishmania contains several putative pteridine transporter genes. Some of these genes are deleted in methotrexate-resistant Leishmania cells where there is no measurable uptake of methotrexate. Transport studies suggest that Leishmania has more than one active folate transporter, and one of these, named FT5, corresponds to a very high affinity folate transporter (K(m) 84 nm). The uptake of both folate and methotrexate was impaired in an FT5 null mutant at low substrate concentrations (50 nm), although transport properties at higher concentrations (1000 nm) were not statistically different between wild-type and the FT5 null mutant. Modulation of the expression of FT5 also changes the susceptibility of Leishmania cells to methotrexate. These results have permitted the characterization of a novel class of folate transporters and suggest that the parasite Leishmania has several gene products possibly transporting folates and related molecules under varying conditions.

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