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We report a novel, low-resource malaria diagnostic platform inspired by the coffee ring phenomenon, selective for Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein-II (PfHRP-II), a biomarker indicative of the P. falciparum parasite strain. In this diagnostic design, a recombinant HRP-II (rcHRP-II) biomarker is sandwiched between 1 μm Ni(II)nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA) gold-plated polystyrene microspheres (AuPS) and Ni(II)NTA-functionalized glass. After rcHRP-II malaria biomarkers had reacted with Ni(II)NTA-functionalized particles, a 1 μL volume of the particle-protein conjugate solution is deposited onto a functionalized glass slide. Drop evaporation produces the radial flow characteristic of coffee ring formation, and particle-protein conjugates are transported toward the drop edge, where, in the presence of rcHRP-II, particles bind to the Ni(II)NTA-functionalized glass surface. After evaporation, a wash with deionized water removes nonspecifically bound materials while maintaining the integrity of the surface-coupled ring produced by the presence of the protein biomarker. The dynamic range of this design was found to span 3 orders of magnitude, and rings are visible with the naked eye at protein concentrations as low as 10 pM, 1 order of magnitude below the 100 pM PfHRP-II threshold recommended by the World Health Organization. Key enabling features of this design are the inert and robust gold nanoshell to reduce nonspecific interactions on the particle surface, inclusion of a water wash step after drop evaporation to reduce nonspecific binding to the glass, a large diameter particle to project a large two-dimensional viewable area after ring formation, and a low particle density to favor radial flow toward the drop edge and reduce vertical settling to the glass surface in the center of the drop. This robust, antibody-free assay offers a simple user interface and clinically relevant limits of biomarker detection, two critical features required for low-resource malaria detection.
BACKGROUND - Histidine kinases are receptors for sensing cellular and environmental signals, and in response to the appropriate cue they initiate phosphorelays that regulate the activity of response regulators. The Dictyostelium discoideum genome encodes 15 histidine kinases that function to regulate several processes during the multicellular developmental program, including the slug to culmination transition, osmoregulation, and spore differentiation. While there are many histidine kinases, there is only a single response regulator, RegA. Not surprisingly given the ubiquitous involvement of cAMP in numerous processes of development in Dictyostelium, RegA is a cAMP phosphodiesterase that is activated upon receiving phosphates through a phosphorelay. Hence, all of the histidine kinases characterized to date regulate developmental processes through modulating cAMP production. Here we investigate the function of the histidine kinase DhkD.
PRINCIPAL FINDINGS - The dhkD gene was disrupted, and the resulting cells when developed gave a novel phenotype. Upon aggregation, which occurred without streaming, the mounds were motile, a phenotype termed the pollywog stage. The pollywog phenotype was dependent on a functional RegA. After a period of random migration, the pollywogs attempted to form fingers but mostly generated aberrant structures with no tips. While prestalk and prespore cell differentiation occurred with normal timing, proper patterning did not occur. In contrast, wild type mounds are not motile, and the cAMP chemotactic movement of cells within the mound facilitates proper prestalk and prespore patterning, tip formation, and the vertical elongation of the mound into a finger.
CONCLUSIONS - We postulate that DhkD functions to ensure the proper cAMP distribution within mounds that in turn results in patterning, tip formation and the transition of mounds to fingers. In the absence of DhkD, aberrant cell movements in response to an altered cAMP distribution result in mound migration, a lack of proper patterning, and an inability to generate normal finger morphology.
Chagas disease, caused by the eukaryotic (protozoan) parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is an alarming emerging global health problem with no clinical drugs available to treat the chronic stage. Azole inhibitors of sterol 14α-demethylase (CYP51) were proven effective against Chagas, and antifungal drugs posaconazole and ravuconazole have entered clinical trials in Spain, Bolivia, and Argentina. Here we present the x-ray structures of T. cruzi CYP51 in complexes with two alternative drug candidates, pyridine derivatives (S)-(4-chlorophenyl)-1-(4-(4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl)-piperazin-1-yl)-2-(pyridin-3-yl)ethanone (UDO; Protein Data Bank code 3ZG2) and N-[4-(trifluoromethyl)phenyl]-N-[1-[5-(trifluoromethyl)-2-pyridyl]-4-piperi-dyl]pyridin-3-amine (UDD; Protein Data Bank code 3ZG3). These compounds have been developed by the Drugs for Neglected Diseases initiative (DNDi) and are highly promising antichagasic agents in both cellular and in vivo experiments. The binding parameters and inhibitory effects on sterol 14α-demethylase activity in reconstituted enzyme reactions confirmed UDO and UDD as potent and selective T. cruzi CYP51 inhibitors. Comparative analysis of the pyridine- and azole-bound CYP51 structures uncovered the features that make UDO and UDD T. cruzi CYP51-specific. The structures suggest that although a precise fit between the shape of the inhibitor molecules and T. cruzi CYP51 active site topology underlies their high inhibitory potency, a longer coordination bond between the catalytic heme iron and the pyridine nitrogen implies a weaker influence of pyridines on the iron reduction potential, which may be the basis for the observed selectivity of these compounds toward the target enzyme versus other cytochrome P450s, including human drug-metabolizing P450s. These findings may pave the way for the development of novel CYP51-targeted drugs with optimized metabolic properties that are very much needed for the treatment of human infections caused by eukaryotic microbial pathogens.
Malaria results in over 650,000 deaths each year; thus, there is an urgent need for an effective vaccine. Pre-clinical studies and recently reported human trials suggest that pre-erythrocytic stage vaccines can provide protection against infection. A Phase 1, randomized, placebo-controlled, dose-escalation study was conducted with a vaccine composed of a replication-deficient adenovirus-35 backbone with P. falciparum circumsporozoite (CS) surface antigen (Ad35.CS.01). Healthy adult subjects received three doses of 10 (8), 10 (9), 10 (10), or 10 (11) vp/mL Ad35.CS.01 vaccine or saline placebo intramuscularly at 0, 1, and 6-mo intervals. Adverse events were assessed and anti-CS antibody responses were determined by ELISA. Seventy-two individuals were enrolled, with age, gender, and ethnicity similar across each study arm. While the vaccine was generally well tolerated, adverse events were more frequent in the highest dose groups (10 (10) and 10 (11) vp/mL). More robust humoral responses were also noted at the highest doses, with 73% developing a positive ELISA response after the three dose series of 10 (11) vp/mL. The Ad35.CS.01 vaccine was most immunogenic at the highest dosages (10 (10) and 10 (11) vp/mL). Reactogenicity findings were more common after the 10 (11) vp/mL dose, although most were mild or moderate in nature and resolved without therapy.
Chagas disease affects more than 10 million people worldwide, and yet, as it has historically been known as a disease of the poor, it remains highly neglected. Two currently available drugs exhibit severe toxicity and low effectiveness, especially in the chronic phase, while new drug discovery has been halted for years as a result of a lack of interest from pharmaceutical companies. Although attempts to repurpose the antifungal drugs posaconazole and ravuconazole (inhibitors of fungal sterol 14α-demethylase [CYP51]) are finally in progress, development of cheaper and more efficient, preferably Trypanosoma cruzi-specific, chemotherapies would be highly advantageous. We have recently reported that the experimental T. cruzi CYP51 inhibitor VNI cures with 100% survival and 100% parasitological clearance both acute and chronic murine infections with the Tulahuen strain of T. cruzi. In this work, we further explored the potential of VNI by assaying nitro-derivative-resistant T. cruzi strains, Y and Colombiana, in highly stringent protocols of acute infection. The data show high antiparasitic efficacy of VNI and its derivative (VNI/VNF) against both forms of T. cruzi that are relevant for mammalian host infection (bloodstream and amastigotes), with the in vivo potency, at 25 mg/kg twice a day (b.i.d.), similar to that of benznidazole (100 mg/kg/day). Transmission electron microscopy and reverse mutation tests were performed to explore cellular ultrastructural and mutagenic aspects of VNI, respectively. No mutagenic potential could be seen by the Ames test at up to 3.5 μM, and the main ultrastructural damage induced by VNI in T. cruzi was related to Golgi apparatus and endoplasmic reticulum organization, with membrane blebs presenting an autophagic phenotype. Thus, these preliminary studies confirm VNI as a very promising trypanocidal drug candidate for Chagas disease therapy.
When cells of Dictyostelium discoideum are exposed to electric pulses they are induced to fuse, yielding motile polykaryotic cells. By combining electron microscopy and direct recording of fluorescent cells, we have studied the emergence of fusion pores in the membranes and the localization of actin to the cell cortex. In response to electric pulsing, the plasma membranes of two contiguous cells are turned into tangles of highly bent and interdigitated membranes. Live-imaging of cells double-labeled for membranes and filamentous actin revealed that actin is induced to polymerize in the fusion zone to temporarily bridge the gaps in the vesiculating membrane. The diffusion of green fluorescent protein (GFP) from one fusion partner to the other was scored using spinning disc confocal microscopy. Fusion pores that allowed intercellular exchange of GFP were formed after a delay, which lasted up to 24 seconds after exposure of the cells to the electric field. These data indicate that the membranes persist in a fusogenic state before pores of about 3 nm diameter are formed.
We have demonstrated the utility of a self-contained extraction device for the selective isolation, purification, and concentration of the malaria diagnostic protein biomarker Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein II (pfHRPII) from human plasma and whole blood. The extraction cassette consists of a small-diameter tube containing a series of preloaded processing solutions separated by mineral oil valves. Nickel(II) nitrilotriacetic acid-functionalized magnetic particles are added to a parasite-spiked sample contained within the loading chamber of the device for capture of pfHRPII. The biomarker-bound magnetic particles are then entrained by an external magnetic field and transported through three wash solutions. Processing removes sample interfering agents, and the biomarker target is concentrated in the final chamber for subsequent analysis. At parasitemias of 200 parasites/μL, purification and concentration of pfHRPII with extraction efficiencies in excess of 70% total protein target are achieved. The concentration of nonspecific protein interfering agents was reduced by more than 2 orders of magnitude in the final extracted sample without the need for hours of processing time and specialized laboratory equipment. We have demonstrated an application of this low-resource technology by coupling extraction and concentration of pfHRPII within the cassette to a commonly employed rapid diagnostic test. Sample preprocessing improved the visual limit of detection of this test by over 8-fold, suggesting that the combination of both low-resource technologies could prove to be useful in malaria eradication efforts.
Translocases of mitochondrial inner membrane (TIMs) are multiprotein complexes. The only Tim component so far characterized in kinetoplastid parasites such as Trypanosoma brucei is Tim17 (TbTim17), which is essential for cell survival and mitochondrial protein import. Here, we report that TbTim17 is present in a protein complex of about 1,100 kDa, which is much larger than the TIM complexes found in fungi and mammals. Depletion of TbTim17 in T. brucei impairs the mitochondrial import of cytochrome oxidase subunit IV, an N-terminal signal-containing protein. Pretreatment of isolated mitoplasts with the anti-TbTim17 antibody inhibited import of cytochrome oxidase subunit IV, indicating a direct involvement of the TbTim17 in the import process. Purification of the TbTim17-containing protein complex from the mitochondrial membrane of T. brucei by tandem affinity chromatography revealed that TbTim17 associates with seven unique as well as a few known T. brucei mitochondrial proteins. Depletion of three of these novel proteins, i.e. TbTim47, TbTim54, and TbTim62, significantly decreased mitochondrial protein import in vitro. In vivo targeting of a newly synthesized mitochondrial matrix protein, MRP2, was also inhibited due to depletion of TbTim17, TbTim54, and TbTim62. Co-precipitation analysis confirmed the interaction of TbTim54 and TbTim62 with TbTim17 in vivo. Overall, our data reveal that TbTim17, the single homolog of Tim17/22/23 family proteins, is present in a unique TIM complex consisting of novel proteins in T. brucei and is critical for mitochondrial protein import.
Trypanosoma brucei is the protozoan parasite that causes African trypanosomiasis, a neglected disease of people and animals. Co-metabolite analysis, labelling studies using [methyl-2H3]-methionine and substrate/product specificities of the cloned 24-SMT (sterol C24-methyltransferase) and 14-SDM (sterol C14demethylase) from T. brucei afforded an uncommon sterol metabolic network that proceeds from lanosterol and 31-norlanosterol to ETO [ergosta-5,7,25(27)-trien-3β-ol], 24-DTO [dimethyl ergosta-5,7,25(27)-trienol] and ergosterol [ergosta-5,7,22(23)-trienol]. To assess the possible carbon sources of ergosterol biosynthesis, specifically 13C-labelled specimens of lanosterol, acetate, leucine and glucose were administered to T. brucei and the 13C distributions found were in accord with the operation of the acetate-mevalonate pathway, with leucine as an alternative precursor, to ergostenols in either the insect or bloodstream form. In searching for metabolic signatures of procyclic cells, we observed that the 13C-labelling treatments induce fluctuations between the acetyl-CoA (mitochondrial) and sterol (cytosolic) synthetic pathways detected by the progressive increase in 13C-ergosterol production (control<[2-(13)C]leucine<[2-(13)C]acetate<[1-(13)C]glucose) and corresponding depletion of cholesta-5,7,24-trienol. We conclude that anabolic fluxes originating in mitochondrial metabolism constitute a flexible part of sterol synthesis that is further fluctuated in the cytosol, yielding distinct sterol profiles in relation to cell demands on growth.
The ring pattern resulting from the unique microfluidics in an evaporating coffee drop is a well-studied mass transport phenomenon generating interest in the research community mostly from a mechanistic perspective. In this report, we describe how biomarker-induced particle-particle assemblies, magnetic separation, and evaporation-driven ring formation can be combined for simple pathogen detection. In this assay design, the presence of biomarkers causes self-assembly of a magnetic nanoparticle and a fluorescently labeled micrometer-sized particle. A small spherical magnet under the center of the drop prevents these assemblies from migrating to the drop's edge while a nonreactive control particle flows to the edge forming a ring pattern. Thus the presence or absence of biomarker results in distinctly different distributions of particles in the dried drop. Proof-of-principle studies using poly-L-histidine, a peptide mimic of the malaria biomarker pfHRPII, show that the predicted particle distributions occur with a limit of detection of approximately 200-300 nM.
© 2011 American Chemical Society