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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2004 Jun;135(2):171-83.

Multiple products of the Leishmania chagasi major surface protease (MSP or GP63) gene family.

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Department of Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, 300L, EMRB, Newton Road, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA. Chaoqun


The major surface protease (MSP or GP63) of the Leishmania spp. protozoa facilitates parasite evasion of complement-mediated killing, phagocytosis by macrophages, and intracellular survival in macrophage phagolysosomes. Immunoblots of several Leishmania species have shown there are distinct MSP isoforms, but the biochemical bases for these differences are unknown. Northern blots show that transcripts of the three tandem gene classes encoding Leishmania chagasi MSP (MSPS, MSPL, MSPC) are differentially expressed during parasite growth in vitro. Cell-associated MSPs increase in abundance during growth, correlating directly with parasite virulence. We examined whether distinct products of these >18 MSP genes are either differentially expressed or differentially processed during parasite growth. Two-dimensional gel electrophoresis and immunoblots delineated more than 10 MSP isoforms in stationary phase L. chagasi, distributed between pIs of 5.2-6.1 and masses of 58-63 kDa. Post-translational modifications including N-glycosylation, GPI anchor addition and phosphorylation did not account for all differences among the isoforms. MALDI-TOF mass spectrometry demonstrated that at least some L. chagasi MSPs were the products of different MSP genes. One isoform was not available for surface biotinylation, suggesting it could be located internally. Parasites in logarithmic growth expressed only four MSP isoforms, and an attenuated strain of L. chagasi (L5) did not express one of the MSP classes (MSPS). These data demonstrate that the products of individual MSP genes are differentially expressed during Leishmania development. We hypothesize they may play different roles during parasite migration through its two hosts.

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