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FEBS J. 2009 Jan;276(2):376-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1742-4658.2008.06788.x. Epub 2008 Dec 3.

A comparative study of methylglyoxal metabolism in trypanosomatids.

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Division of Biological Chemistry and Drug Discovery, Wellcome Trust Biocentre, College of Life Sciences, University of Dundee, UK.


The glyoxalase system, comprising the metalloenzymes glyoxalase I (GLO1) and glyoxalase II (GLO2), is an almost universal metabolic pathway involved in the detoxification of the glycolytic byproduct methylglyoxal to d-lactate. In contrast to the situation with the trypanosomatid parasites Leishmania major and Trypanosoma cruzi, this trypanothione-dependent pathway is less well understood in the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei. Although this organism possesses a functional GLO2, no apparent GLO1 gene could be identified in the T. brucei genome. The absence of GLO1 in T. brucei was confirmed by the lack of GLO1 activity in whole cell extracts, failure to detect a GLO1-like protein on immunoblots of cell lysates, and lack of d-lactate formation from methylglyoxal as compared to L. major and T. cruzi. T. brucei procyclics were found to be 2.4-fold and 5.7-fold more sensitive to methylglyoxal toxicity than T. cruzi and L. major, respectively. T. brucei also proved to be the least adept of the 'Tritryp' parasites in metabolizing methylglyoxal, producing l-lactate rather than d-lactate. Restoration of a functional glyoxalase system by expression of T. cruzi GLO1 in T. brucei resulted in increased resistance to methylglyoxal and increased conversion of methylglyoxal to d-lactate, demonstrating that GLO2 is functional in vivo. Procyclic forms of T. brucei possess NADPH-dependent methylglyoxal reductase and NAD(+)-dependent l-lactaldehyde dehydrogenase activities sufficient to account for all of the methylglyoxal metabolized by these cells. We propose that the predominant mechanism for methylglyoxal detoxification in the African trypanosome is via the methylglyoxal reductase pathway to l-lactate.

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