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Int J Parasitol. 2012;42(3):239-47. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2011.12.004. Epub 2012 Jan 11.

Acylation-dependent and-independent membrane targeting and distinct functions of small myristoylated proteins (SMPs) in Leishmania major.

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Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Bio21 Molecular Science and Biotechnology Institute, The University of Melbourne, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


Trypanosomatid parasites express a number of mono- and diacylated proteins that are targeted to distinct regions of the plasma membrane including the cell body, the flagellum and the flagellar pocket. The extent to which the acylation status and other protein motifs regulate the targeting and/or retention of these proteins to the distinct membrane domains is poorly defined. We have previously described a family of small myristoylated proteins (SMPs) that are either monoacylated (myristoylated) or diacylated (myristoylated and palmitoylated) and targeted to distinct plasma membrane domains. Diacylated SMP-1 is a major constituent of the flagellar membrane, whereas monoacylated SMP-2 resides in the flagellar pocket in Leishmania major. Here, we show that a third SMP family member, monoacylated SMP-4, localizes predominantly to the pellicular membrane. Density gradient centrifugation of detergent-insoluble membranes indicated that SMP-4 was associated with detergent-insoluble domains but was not tightly associated with the subpellicular cytoskeleton. Based on the localisation of truncated SMP proteins, we conclude that the flagellum targeting of SMP-1 is primarily dependent on the dual-acylation motif. In contrast, the localisation of SMP-4 to the cell body membrane is dependent on N-terminal myristoylation and a C-terminal peptide subdomain with a predicted α-helical structure. Strikingly, a SMP-1 chimera containing the SMP-4 C-terminal extension was selectively trafficked to the distal tip of the flagellum and failed to complement the loss of native SMP-1 in a Δsmp1/2 double knockout strain. Collectively, these results suggest that dual acylation is sufficient to target some SMP proteins to the flagellum, while the unique C-terminal extensions of these proteins may confer additional membrane targeting signals that are important for both localisation and SMP function.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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