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Microbiology. 2011 Oct;157(Pt 10):2818-30. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.049247-0. Epub 2011 Jul 14.

Characterization of a porin channel in the endosymbiont of the trypanosomatid protozoan Crithidia deanei.

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Instituto de Biofísica Carlos Chagas Filho, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.


Crithidia deanei is a trypanosomatid protozoan that harbours a symbiotic bacterium. The partners maintain a mutualistic relationship, thus constituting an excellent model for studying metabolic exchanges between the host and the symbiont, the origin of organelles and cellular evolution. According to molecular analysis, symbionts of different trypanosomatid species share high identity and descend from a common ancestor, a β-proteobacterium of the genus Bordetella. The endosymbiont is surrounded by two membranes, like Gram-negative bacteria, but its envelope presents special features, since phosphatidylcholine is a major membrane component and the peptidoglycan layer is highly reduced, as described in other obligate intracellular bacteria. Like the process that generated mitochondria and plastids, the endosymbiosis in trypanosomatids depends on pathways that facilitate the intensive metabolic exchanges between the bacterium and the host protozoan. A search of the annotated symbiont genome database identified one sequence with identity to porin-encoding genes of the genus Bordetella. Considering that the symbiont outer membrane has a great accessibility to cytoplasm host factors, it was important to characterize this single porin-like protein using biochemical, molecular, computational and ultrastructural approaches. Antiserum against the recombinant porin-like molecule revealed that it is mainly located in the symbiont envelope. Secondary structure analysis and comparative modelling predicted the protein 3D structure as an 18-domain β-barrel, which is consistent with porin channels. Electrophysiological measurements showed that the porin displays a slight preference for cations over anions. Taken together, the data presented herein suggest that the C. deanei endosymbiont porin is phylogenetically and structurally similar to those described in Gram-negative bacteria, representing a diffusion channel that might contribute to the exchange of nutrients and metabolic precursors between the symbiont and its host cell.

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