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Mol Microbiol. 1996 Oct;22(2):255-63.

Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba dispar: differences in numbers and expression of cysteine proteinase genes.

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Department of Molecular Biology, Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Hamburg, Germany.


In order to identify molecules that might be responsible for the difference in pathogenicity between the two closely related protozoan parasites Entamoeba histolytica and Entamoeba dispar, we focussed on cysteine proteinases because this class of enzymes has been considered important for pathogenic tissue destruction. By screening a genomic library derived from an E. histolytica isolate, a total of six distinct genes (ehcp1-ehcp6) encoding typical prepro-forms of cysteine proteinases were identified which differed from each other by 40% to 85% of their nucleotide sequences. Three of these genes, ehcp1, ehcp2, and ehcp5, which exhibited high levels of expression, were found to be responsible for approximately 90% of cysteine proteinase transcripts, whereas the remaining three were either not or only marginally expressed. Expression of the different genes directly correlated with the level of activity of the respective enzymes in trophozoite lysates. Purification of the enzymes and N-terminal sequencing revealed that virtually all cysteine proteinase activity of E. histolytica can be attributed to three enzymes namely EhCP1, EhCP2 and EhCP5. Southern blot analysis indicated that just two of these abundantly expressed genes are missing in E. dispar. On the other hand, genes analogous to four of the six genes identified in E. histolytica were found to be present in E. dispar, but only two of these are expressed within the trophozoite stage.

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