Functional dissection of T. brucei Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase 1 and investigation of its development as a therapeutic target
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Trypanosoma brucei undergoes developmentally regulated morphological and biochemical changes during its life cycle, being transmitted between the mammalian host and the tsetse fly. It is generally recognized that cellular responses to environmental changes are mediated through signalling pathways, but our understanding of trypanosome signal transduction during differentiation is limited. Protein Tyrosine Phosphatase 1 (TbPTP1) is the one of the few factors identified to be responsible for differentiation from stumpy to procyclic form parasite, whereby TbPTP1 inhibition stimulates transition to insect-form cells (Szoor et al., 2006). In order to characterize the TbPTP1 signalling pathway, a substratetrapping approach was used, which identified a phosphatase TbPIP39 as substrate of TbPTP1. TbPIP39 interacts with, and is dephosphorylated by TbPTP1 in stumpy form cells. Additionally, it has been shown that upon citrate/cis-aconitate (CCA) treatment, phosphorylated TbPIP39 localizes to the parasite glycosomes, the organelles responsible for bloodstream forms metabolism, thereby promoting cellular differentiation to procyclic forms (Szoor et al., 2010). With the aim of further dissecting the TbPTP1 signalling pathway, the substrate-trapping approach was used, which identified one novel TbPTP1 substrate candidate, potentially involved in regulation of differentiation. In addition, the effect of other differentiation triggers, namely protease treatment or mild acid exposure, on the level of TbPIP39 phosphorylation was analyzed, to determine whether these stimuli operate via the same TbPIP39–dependent pathway as CCA signalling. Specifically, changes in the phosphorylation status of TbPIP39 were visualized and quantitated by the use of antibodies detecting either TbPIP39 or the Y278 phosphorylated form of TbPIP39 generated during CCA-dependent differentiation. Both protease treatment and mild acid exposure generated a different pattern of TbPIP39 phosphorylation, thus suggesting a different mechanism of action than CCA. Finally, the possibility of using piggyback strategies targeting TbPTP1 was investigated, as a means to decrease the number of the fly-transmissible stumpy form cells in the bloodstream, thereby controlling parasite transmission. For this purpose, natural and synthetic inhibitors of human PTP1B were tested against the parasite enzyme, since they are being developed by pharmaceutical companies for the treatment of diabetes and obesity. The compounds tested showed a moderate in vitro inhibitory activity against recombinant TbPTP1 and mainly a non-competitive type of inhibition, similarly to that observed for human PTP1B. However, none of the compounds showed in vivo specificity for TbPTP1, indicating that further studies will be needed to identify more specific inhibitors.