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Eukaryot Cell. 2010 Aug;9(8):1283-93. doi: 10.1128/EC.00015-10. Epub 2010 Jun 25.

Downregulation of an Entamoeba histolytica rhomboid protease reveals roles in regulating parasite adhesion and phagocytosis.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Stanford University School of Medicine, S-143 Grant Building, 300 Pasteur Drive, Stanford, CA 94305, USA.


Entamoeba histolytica is a deep-branching eukaryotic pathogen. Rhomboid proteases are intramembrane serine proteases, which cleave transmembrane proteins in, or in close proximity to, their transmembrane domain. We have previously shown that E. histolytica contains a single functional rhomboid protease (EhROM1) and has unique substrate specificity. EhROM1 is present on the trophozoite surface and relocalizes to internal vesicles during erythrophagocytosis and to the base of the cap during surface receptor capping. In order to further examine the biological function of EhROM1 we downregulated EhROM1 expression by >95% by utilizing the epigenetic silencing mechanism of the G3 parasite strain. Despite the observation that EhROM1 relocalized to the cap during surface receptor capping, EhROM1 knockdown [ROM(KD)] parasites had no gross changes in cap formation or complement resistance. However, ROM(KD) parasites demonstrated decreased host cell adhesion, a result recapitulated by treatment of wild-type parasites with DCI, a serine protease inhibitor with activity against rhomboid proteases. The reduced adhesion phenotype of ROM(KD) parasites was noted exclusively with healthy cells, and not with apoptotic cells. Additionally, ROM(KD) parasites had decreased phagocytic ability with reduced ingestion of healthy cells, apoptotic cells, and rice starch. Decreased phagocytic ability is thus independent of the reduced adhesion phenotype, since phagocytosis of apoptotic cells was reduced despite normal adhesion levels. The defect in host cell adhesion was not explained by altered expression or localization of the heavy subunit of the Gal/GalNAc surface lectin. These results suggest no significant role of EhROM1 in complement resistance but unexpected roles in parasite adhesion and phagocytosis.

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