Table of contents

Volume 3, Issue 5, pp. 189 - 231, May 2016

Issue cover
Cover: The cover illustration shows tachyzoites of the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii egressing from human host cells following stimulation with a calcium ionophore. Image by Arunakar Kuchipudi, Volker Brinkmann and Nishith Gupta (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany); modified by MIC. The cover is published under the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license. Enlarge issue cover


Phosphatidylthreonine: An exclusive phospholipid regulating calcium homeostasis and virulence in a parasitic protist

Ruben D. Arroyo-Olarte and Nishith Gupta

page 189-190 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.496 | Full text | PDF |

News and Thoughts

The complexities of bacterial-fungal interactions in the mammalian gastrointestinal tract

Eduardo Lopez-Medina and Andrew Y. Koh

page 191-195 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.497 | Full text | PDF |


The molecular and cellular action properties of artemisinins: what has yeast told us?

Chen Sun and Bing Zhou

page 196-205 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.498 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Artemisinin (ART) or Qinghaosu is a natural compound possessing superior anti-malarial activity. Although intensive studies have been done in the medicinal chemistry field to understand the structure-effect relationship, the biological actions of artemisinin are poorly understood and controversial. Due to the current lack of a genetic amiable model to address this question, and an accidental finding made more than a decade ago during our initial exploratory efforts that yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae can be inhibited by artemisinin, we have since been using the baker’s yeast as a model to probe the molecular and cellular properties of artemisinin and its derivatives (ARTs) in living cells. ARTs were found to possess potent and specific anti-mitochondrial properties and, to a lesser extent, the ability to generate a relatively general oxidative damage. The anti-mitochondrial effects of artemisinin were later confirmed with purified mitochondria from malaria parasites. Inside some cells heme appears to be a primary reducing agent and reduction of ARTs by heme can induce a relatively nonspecific cellular damage. The molecular basis of the anti-mitochondrial properties of ARTs remains not well elucidated yet. We propose that the anti-mitochondrial and heme-mediated ROS-generating properties constitute two cellcidal actions of ARTs. This review summarizes what we have learned from yeast about the basic biological properties of ARTs, as well as some key unanswered questions. We believe yeast could serve as a window through which to peek at some of the biological action secrets of ARTs that might be difficult for us to learn otherwise.

Research Articles

Formaldehyde fixation is detrimental to actin cables in glucose-depleted S. cerevisiae cells

Pavla Vasicova, Mark Rinnerthaler, Danusa Haskova, Lenka Novakova, Ivana Malcova, Michael Breitenbach, Jiri Hasek

page 206-214 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.499 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Actin filaments form cortical patches and emanating cables in fermenting cells of Saccharomyces cerevisiae. This pattern has been shown to be depolarized in glucose-depleted cells after formaldehyde fixation and staining with rhodamine-tagged phalloidin. Loss of actin cables in mother cells was remarkable. Here we extend our knowledge on actin in live glucose-depleted cells co-expressing the marker of actin patches (Abp1-RFP) with the marker of actin cables (Abp140-GFP). Glucose depletion resulted in appearance of actin patches also in mother cells. However, even after 80 min of glucose deprivation these cells showed a clear network of actin cables labeled with Abp140-GFP in contrast to previously published data. In live cells with a mitochondrial dysfunction (rho0 cells), glucose depletion resulted in almost immediate appearance of Abp140-GFP foci partially overlapping with Abp1-RFP patches in mother cells. Residual actin cables were clustered in patch-associated bundles. A similar overlapping “patchy” pattern of both actin markers was observed upon treatment of glucose-deprived rho+ cells with FCCP (the inhibitor of oxidative phosphorylation) and upon treatment with formaldehyde. While the formaldehyde-targeted process stays unknown, our results indicate that published data on yeast actin cytoskeleton obtained from glucose-depleted cells after fixation should be considered with caution.

Optogenetic monitoring identifies phosphatidylthreonine-regulated calcium homeostasis in Toxoplasma gondii

Arunakar Kuchipudi, Ruben D. Arroyo-Olarte, Friederike Hoffmann, Volker Brinkmann, Nishith Gupta

page 215-223 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.500 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite, which inflicts acute as well as chronic infections in a wide range of warm-blooded vertebrates. Our recent work has demonstrated the natural occurrence and autonomous synthesis of an exclusive lipid phosphatidylthreonine in T. gondii. Targeted gene disruption of phosphatidylthreonine synthase impairs the parasite virulence due to unforeseen attenuation of the consecutive events of motility, egress and invasion. However, the underlying basis of such an intriguing phenotype in the parasite mutant remains unknown. Using an optogenetic sensor (gene-encoded calcium indicator, GCaMP6s), we show that loss of phosphatidylthreonine depletes calcium stores in intracellular tachyzoites, which leads to dysregulation of calcium release into the cytosol during the egress phase of the mutant. Consistently, the parasite motility and egress phenotypes in the mutant can be entirely restored by ionophore-induced mobilization of calcium. Collectively, our results suggest a novel regulatory function of phosphatidylthreonine in calcium signaling of a prevalent parasitic protist. Moreover, our application of an optogenetic sensor to monitor subcellular calcium in a model intracellular pathogen exemplifies its wider utility to other entwined systems.


A plant Bcl-2-associated athanogene is proteolytically activated to confer fungal resistance

Mehdi Kabbage, Ryan Kessens and Martin B. Dickman

page 224-226 | 10.15698/ mic2016.05.501 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

The Bcl-2-associated athanogene (BAG) family is a multifunctional group of proteins involved in numerous cellular functions ranging from apoptosis to tumorigenesis. These proteins are evolutionarily conserved and encode a characteristic region known as the BAG domain. BAGs function as adapter proteins forming complexes with signaling molecules and molecular chaperones. In humans, a role for BAG proteins has been suggested in tumor growth, HIV infection, and neurodegenerative diseases; as a result, the BAGs are attractive targets for therapeutic interventions, and their expression in cells may serve as a predictive tool for disease development. The Arabidopsis genome contains seven homologs of BAG family proteins (Figure 1), including four with a domain organization similar to animal BAGs (BAG1-4). The remaining three members (BAG5-7) contain a predicted calmodulin-binding motif near the BAG domain, a feature unique to plant BAG proteins that possibly reflects divergent mechanisms associated with plant-specific functions. As reported for animal BAGs, plant BAGs also regulate several stress and developmental processes (Figure 2). The recent article by Li et al. focuses on the role of BAG6 in plant innate immunity. This study shows that BAG6 plays a key role in basal plant defense against fungal pathogens. Importantly, this work further shows that BAG6 is proteolytically activated to induce autophagic cell death and resistance in plants. This finding underscores the importance of proteases in the execution of plant cell death, yet little is known about proteases and their substrates in plants.

Translational repression in malaria sporozoites

Oliver Turque, Tiffany Tsao, Thomas Li, Min Zhang

page 227-229 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.502 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Malaria is a mosquito-borne infectious disease of humans and other animals. It is caused by the parasitic protozoan, Plasmodium. Sporozoites, the infectious form of malaria parasites, are quiescent when they remain in the salivary glands of the Anopheles mosquito until transmission into a mammalian host. Metamorphosis of the dormant sporozoite to its active form in the liver stage requires transcriptional and translational regulations. Here, we summarize recent advances in the translational repression of gene expression in the malaria sporozoite. In sporozoites, many mRNAs that are required for liver stage development are translationally repressed. Phosphorylation of eukaryotic Initiation Factor 2α (eIF2α) leads to a global translational repression in sporozoites. The eIF2α kinase, known as Upregulated in Infectious Sporozoite 1 (UIS1), is dominant in the sporozoite. The eIF2α phosphatase, UIS2, is translationally repressed by the Pumilio protein Puf2. This translational repression is alleviated when sporozoites are delivered into the mammalian host.

Chemical proteomics approach reveals the direct targets and the heme-dependent activation mechanism of artemisinin in Plasmodium falciparum using an activity-based artemisinin probe

Jigang Wang, Qingsong Lin

page 230-231 | 10.15698/mic2016.05.503 | Full text | PDF | Abstract

Artemisinin and its analogues are currently the most effective anti-malarial drugs. The activation of artemisinin requires the cleavage of the endoperoxide bridge in the presence of iron sources. Once activated, artemisinins attack macromolecules through alkylation and propagate a series of damages, leading to parasite death. Even though several parasite proteins have been reported as artemisinin targets, the exact mechanism of action (MOA) of artemisinin is still controversial and its high potency and specificity against the malaria parasite could not be fully accounted for. Recently, we have developed an unbiased chemical proteomics approach to directly probe the MOA of artemisinin in P. falciparum. We synthesized an activity-based artemisinin probe with an alkyne tag, which can be coupled with biotin through click chemistry. This enabled selective purification and identification of 124 protein targets of artemisinin. Many of these targets are critical for the parasite survival. In vitro assays confirmed the specific artemisinin binding and inhibition of selected targets. We thus postulated that artemisinin kills the parasite through disrupting its biochemical landscape. In addition, we showed that artemisinin activation requires heme, rather than free ferrous iron, by monitoring the extent of protein binding using a fluorescent dye coupled with the alkyne-tagged artemisinin. The extremely high level of heme released from the hemoglobin digestion by the parasite makes artemisinin exceptionally potent against late-stage parasites (trophozoite and schizont stages) compared to parasites at early ring stage, which have low level of heme, possibly derived from endogenous synthesis. Such a unique activation mechanism also confers artemisinin with extremely high specificity against the parasites, while the healthy red blood cells are unaffected. Our results provide a sound explanation of the MOA of artemisinin and its specificity against malaria parasites, which may benefit the optimization of treatment strategies and the battle against the emerging drug resistance.