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J Biol Chem. 2006 Mar 24;281(12):7952-9. Epub 2006 Jan 19.

Leishmania major expresses a single dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase localized in the glycosome, important for rapid growth and survival at high cell density and essential for virulence.

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Department of Genetics and Developmental Biology, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington, Connecticut 06030-3301, USA.


Despite major advances in the understanding of pathogenesis of the human protozoan parasite Leishmania major, little is known about the enzymes and the primary precursors involved in the initial steps of synthesis of its major glycerolipids including those involved in virulence. We have previously demonstrated that the initial step of acylation of the precursor glycerol 3-phosphate is not essential for the synthesis of ester and ether phospholipids in this parasite. Here we show that Leishmania expresses a single acyltransferase with high specificity for the precursor dihydroxyacetone phosphate and shows the best activity in the presence of palmitoyl-CoA. We have identified and characterized the LmDAT gene encoding this activity. LmDAT complements the lethality resulting from the loss of both dihydroxyacetone phosphate and glycerol-3-phosphate acyltransferase activities in yeast. Recombinant LmDAT exhibits biochemical properties similar to those of the native enzyme of the promastigote stage parasites. We show that LmDAT is a glycosomal enzyme and its loss in a delta lmdat/delta lmdat null mutant results in complete abrogation of the parasite dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase activity. Furthermore, lack of LmDAT causes a major alteration in parasite division during the logarithmic phase of growth, an accelerated cell death during stationary phase, and loss of virulence. Together, our results demonstrate that LmDAT is the only dihydroxyacetone phosphate acyltransferase of the L. major localized in the peroxisome, important for growth and survival and essential for virulence.

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