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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2006 Nov;150(1):63-71. Epub 2006 Jul 13.

Stage specific gene expression and cellular localization of two isoforms of the serine hydroxymethyltransferase in the protozoan parasite Leishmania.

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Centre de Recherche en Infectiologie du Centre de recherche du CHUL, Division de Microbiologie, Faculté de Médecine, Université Laval, Québec, Canada.


Serine hydroxymethyltransferase (SHMT) catalyses the reversible conversion of serine and tetrahydrofolate to glycine and methylene-tetrahydrofolate. The recent completion of the genome sequence of Leishmania major revealed the presence of two genes coding for two isoforms of this protein. In silico analysis showed that one isoform had an extension at its N-terminus and was predicted to localize to the mitochondrion. The situation is different in other kinetoplastid parasites with only one SHMT encoding gene in Trypanosoma cruzi and no SHMT encoding gene in Trypanosoma brucei. The two L. major SHMT genes were cloned in frame with the green fluorescent protein and the resulting fusion proteins showed differential localization: the short form (SHMT-S) was found in the cytosol while the long one (SHMT-L) was found in an organelle that has hallmarks of the parasite mitochondrion. Indeed, SHMT-L had a similar cellular fractionation pattern as the mitochondrial HSP60 as determined by digitonin fractionation. Both SHMT-S and SHMT-L genes were expressed preferentially in the amastigote stage of the parasite and the RNA levels of SHMT-L could be modulated by glycine, serine, and folate. Overexpression of SHMT-S increased resistance to the antifolate methotrexate and to a lower level to the inhibitor thiosemicarbazide in a rich folate containing medium. These findings suggest that folate metabolism is compartmentalised in Leishmania and that SHMT RNA levels are responsive to environmental conditions.

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