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J Biol Chem. 1988 May 25;263(15):7020-8.

Methotrexate-resistant Leishmania donovani genetically deficient in the folate-methotrexate transporter.

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  • 1Department of Biochemistry, Oregon Health Sciences University, Portland 07021.


From a mutagenized population of wild type Leishmania donovani promastigotes, a clone was isolated in a single step by virtue of its resistance to 1 mM methotrexate, a potent inhibitor of dihydrofolate reductase. This methotrexate-selected cell line, MTXA5, was cross-resistant to aminopterin but just as sensitive to growth inhibition caused by pyrimethamine, trimethoprim, and cytotoxic purine and pyrimidine analogs. Unlike previously characterized methotrexate-resistant Leishmania (Coderre, J. A., Beverley, S. M., Schimke, R., and Santi, D. V. (1983) Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U. S. A. 80, 2132-2136), resistance to the antimetabolite was not due to gene amplification or increased dihydrofolate reductase activity. The genetic defect in MTXA5 cells appeared to be in the methotrexate-folate transport system. The rate of uptake and transport of [3H]methotrexate and [3H]folate into MTXA5 cells was less than 1% of that of wild type parental cells. Neither wild type nor MTXA5 cells could multiply in folate-deficient medium, and thymine and thymidine at concentrations which circumvented methotrexate toxicity, did not restore the ability of Leishmania to grow. The concentration of exogenous folate that restored growth of wild type and mutant cells, however, was virtually identical, although MTXA5 cells, unlike parental cells, could not proliferate in folate-deficient medium supplemented with 10 microM biopterin. Interestingly, methotrexate and aminopterin could stimulate the growth of both leishmanial strains in folate-deficient medium, suggesting that these antifolate analogs were serving as a pteridine source for the parasite. These somatic cell genetic studies of folate transport in Leishmania provide genetic evidence for a specific folate permease in L. donovani promastigotes and have important implications concerning the mechanisms by which these parasites utilize exogenous pteridines and folates and by which they might become resistant to parasite-directed chemotherapeutic regimens.

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