Key proteins for parasite motility and infectivity uncovered

Key proteins for parasite motility and infectivity uncovered

Two recent papers from the Gull lab have highlighted the role of the flagellum attachment zone and the flagellum basal plate in the kinetoplastid parasites, Leishmania mexicana and Trypanosoma brucei. One of the first authors, Jack Sunter, now leads his own research group at Oxford Brookes University.

The Sunter et al paper investigated the structure of the flagellar pocket, where the flagellum exits the cell body, by looking at the role of a FAZ (flagellum attachment zone) protein in both cell cultures and in vivo. They found that correct establishment of the flagellar pocket is essential for subsequent infection of sand flies and mice.

The Dean et al paper investigated the role of basalin, a protein that is responsible for building the ‘basal plate’, a structure that is found at the base of the flagellum. They found that knockdown of basalin produced immotile flagella caused by defects in the central pair of microtubules.

These papers both link individual proteins with flagellar structures. Two key functions of the flagellum, movement and attachment, are both vital to the kinetoplastid lifecycle and infection ability. Therefore, understanding these processes gives an insight into how these could be targeted in future treatments.

Dean, S. Moreira-Leite F, Gull K. Basalin is an evolutionarily unconstrained protein revealed via a conserved role in flagellum basal plate function. ELife, 8 pii:e42282

Sunter JD, Yanase R, Wang Z, Catta-Preta CMC, Moreira-Leite F, Myskova J, Pruzinova K, Volf P, Mottram JC, Gull K (2019). Leishmania flagellum attachment zone is critical for flagellar pocket shape, development in the sand fly, and pathogenicity in the host. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 116(13) 6351-6530 doi: 10.1073/pnas.1812462116

Heather Jeffery