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Int J Parasitol. 2009 Feb;39(3):267-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2008.06.015. Epub 2008 Aug 6.

Schistosoma mansoni arginase shares functional similarities with human orthologs but depends upon disulphide bridges for enzymatic activity.

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  • 1Department of Pathology, University of Cambridge, UK.


Schistosome helminths constitute a major health risk for the human population in many tropical areas. We demonstrate for the first time that several developmental stages of the human parasite Schistosoma mansoni express arginase, which is responsible for the hydrolysis of l-arginine to l-ornithine and urea. Arginase activity by alternatively activated macrophages is an essential component of the mammalian host response in schistosomiasis. However, it has not been previously shown that the parasite also expresses arginase when it is in contact with the mammalian host. After cloning and sequencing the cDNA encoding the parasite enzyme, we found that many structural features of human arginase are well conserved in the parasite ortholog. Subsequently, we discovered that S. mansoni arginase shares many similar molecular, biochemical and functional properties with both human arginase isoforms. Nevertheless, our data also reveal striking differences between human and schistosome arginase. Particularly, we found evidence that schistosome arginase activity depends upon disulphide bonds by cysteines, in contrast to human arginase. In conclusion, we report that S. mansoni arginase is well adapted to the physiological conditions that exist in the human host.

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