Studies On Heat Shock Protein 60 From Plasmodium Falciparum
Malaria is caused by a protozoan parasite belonging to the genus Plasmodia. Plasmodium falciparum is responsible for the fatal form of human malaria. Spread of drug resistant parasites warrants for sound biological understanding of the parasite at both cellular and biochemical level. Heat shock proteins are highly conserved group of proteins required for correct folding, transport, and degradation of substrate proteins in vivo. Hsp60 is found in eubacteria, mitochondria, and chloroplasts, where in cooperation with Hsp10, it participates in protein folding. Keeping in mind the central importance of chaperones in biological processes, our lab has been interested in examining roles of heat shock proteins in malarial parasite during its asexual growth in human erythrocytes. During its life cycle, the parasite continually shuttles between a cold-blooded insect vector with the body temperature of 27°C and a warm-blooded human host with the body temperature of 37°C and parasite experiences episodes of heat shock periodically. Therefore malaria parasite serves as good model to study heat shock protein functions. Like all biological systems, the malaria parasite expresses several chaperones including proteins of the Hsp40, Hsp60, Hsp70, Hsp90 and Hsp100 families. Towards this we have systematically characterized different families of stress proteins Hsp40, Hsp60, Hsp70, Hsp90 as well as Hsp100. In addition to cloning their genes we have studied their expression, localization, abundance, complexes and their biological roles. Earlier studies from our lab showed PfHsp90 is essential for parasite growth and survival in human erythrocytes. Our present study attempts to study heat shock protein 60 of the malarial parasite (PfHsp60). In this connection we have been successful to clone and express PfHsp60 gene from Plasmodium falciparum in E. coli and to raise antibodies specific to PfHsp60. We have examined its expression and import in the mitochondrion of malarial parasite during its asexual growth in human erythrocytes. Analysis of the total parasite lysates resolved by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis followed by western blotting using specific antibodies showed PfHsp60 exhibits an isoelectric point corresponding to its signal uncleaved precursor (pI - 6.2). Mass spectrometric analysis of the spot corresponding to precursor PfHsp60 confirmed the presence of signal peptide region. Co-immunoprecipitation analysis of total parasite lysates with antibodies specific to PfHsp60 showed precursor PfHsp60 to be associated with PfHsp70 and PfHsp90. Co-immunoprecipitation from the mitochondrial and cytoplasmic fraction confirmed the position of mature PfHsp60. Indirect immunofluorescence analysis also showed presence of a pool of PfHsp60 in the cytoplasm of the parasite, in addition to its expected localization in the mitochondrion. Treatment of parasite infected erythrocytes with an inhibitor of Hsp90 disrupted its association with cytoplasmic chaperones and targeted precursor Pfhsp60 for intracellular degradation. On the other hand treatment with the mitochondrial import inhibitor further inhibited the import of precursor PfHsp60 into the mitochondrion and stabilized its interaction with cytosolic chaperones. Previous reports have shown that there are four fold accumulations of PfHsp60 transcripts in heat shocked parasites. However, the expression of PfHsp60 was not induced upon heat shock in the blood stages of P.falciparum. Biochemical data indicate that the mitochondrion is not the source of ATP in the parasite. Furthermore the genome does not seem to encode the critical subunits of Fo-F1 ATP synthase. Yet, the active mitochondrial electron transport chain serves for regeneration of ubiquinone required for pyrimidine biosynthesis. The active electron transport chain is critical for parasite survival. Recent study with the lab-grown 3D7 strain of malaria parasite concluded that mitochondria are not required for energy conversion. Transcriptome analysis of the parasite derived directly from blood samples of infected patients showed that genes encoding the proteins of mitochondrial biogenesis, oxidative phosphorylation, respiration and highlighted the mean expression level for PfHsp60 is dramatically up regulated in parasites. Gene up regulation doesn’t always translate to increase in protein function or metabolic up regulation. When we analyzed the total parasite lysates of field isolates resolved by two-dimensional gel electrophoresis also showed presence of the precursor form of Pfhsp60 in the cytoplasm of the parasite. Overall, our observations indicated accumulation of precursor PfHsp60 in the parasite cytoplasm suggesting an inefficient mitochondrial protein import in the malarial parasite. The defect in mitochondrial protein import is possibly reflective of the compromised energy state of the parasite mitochondrion. This fits with the model that has been reported in mutant strains of yeast, Saccharomyces cerevisiae lacking functional F o-F1-ATPase. These strains were found to grow very poorly under anaerobic conditions and are known to accumulate Hsp60 protein in the cytoplasm mainly its precursor form. Under optimal growth conditions most eukaryotes maintain close co-ordination between gene expression, translation and translocation efficiently. As a result, mitochondrial precursor proteins are usually not found to accumulate in the cytoplasm. To our knowledge this the first report suggesting an inefficient co-ordination in the synthesis and translocation of precursor PfHsp60 and possibly other proteins during asexual growth of malarial parasite in human erythrocytes under optimal growth conditions. Finally, expression of the PfHsp60 gene in E.coli resulted in its association with bacterial GroEL subunits co-fractionating with a size of 920 kDa, corresponding to the tetra decameric form. The observation indicated possible existence of a hybrid chaperonin complex consisting of subunits from ectopically expressed PfHsp60 and endogenous GroEL.
- Biochemistry (BC) 
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