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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2005 Feb;139(2):173-83.

Internal and surface subpopulations of the major surface protease (MSP) of Leishmania chagasi.

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VA Medical Center, University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA 52242, USA.


Major surface protease (MSP) facilitates Leishmania promastigote evasion of complement-mediated lysis in the mammalian host and enhances host macrophage phagocytosis of the promastigotes. We previously showed that the steady-state abundance of MSP protein increases 14-fold during in vitro cultivation of L. chagasi promastigotes from logarithmic to stationary phase, despite the fact that the total amount of MSP mRNA does not increase. Furthermore, 10 major MSP isoforms are differentially expressed in different promastigote growth phases, and attenuation of parasites by long-term in vitro cultivation influences MSP isoform expression. Herein, we report that although about two-thirds of newly synthesized MSP becomes surface localized, the rest of the MSP does not reach the promastigote surface. This internal MSP is stable without detectable decrease in abundance up to 6 days after biosynthesis. Furthermore, surface-localized MSP is released at different rates from logarithmic and stationary phase virulent Leishmania promastigotes. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that the major mechanism regulating MSP abundance is the rate of loss of surface-localized MSP from the promastigote surface, and that internally localized MSP is very stable.

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