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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2013 Jan;187(1):21-31. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2012.11.001. Epub 2012 Nov 28.

Unique posttranslational modifications in eukaryotic translation factors and their roles in protozoan parasite viability and pathogenesis.

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  • 1School of Life Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.


Protozoan parasites are one of the major causes of diseases worldwide. The vector transmitted parasites exhibit complex life cycles involving interactions between humans, protozoa, and arthropods. In order to adapt themselves to the changing microenvironments, they have to undergo complex morphological and metabolic changes. These changes can be brought about by expressing a new pool of proteins in the cell or by modifying the existing repertoire of proteins via posttranslational modifications (PTMs). PTMs involve covalent modification and processing of proteins thereby modulating their functions. Some of these changes may involve PTMs of parasite proteins to help the parasite survive within the host and the vector. Out of many PTMs known, three are unique since they occur only on single proteins: ethanolamine phosphoglycerol (EPG) glutamate, hypusine and diphthamide. These modifications occur on eukaryotic elongation factor 1A (eEF1A), eukaryotic initiation factor 5A (eIF5A) and eukaryotic elongation factor 2 (eEF2), respectively. Interestingly, the proteins carrying these unique modifications are all involved in the elongation steps of translation. Here we review these unique PTMs, which are well conserved in protozoan parasites, and discuss their roles in viability and pathogenesis of parasites. Characterization of these modifications and studying their roles in physiology as well as pathogenesis will provide new insights in parasite biology, which may also help in developing new therapeutic interventions.

Copyright © 2012 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

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