Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 29813135
PLoS Pathog. 2018 05;14(5):e1007116
De novo biosynthesis of lipids is essential for Trypanosoma brucei, a protist responsible for the sleeping sickness. Here, we demonstrate that the ketogenic carbon sources, threonine, acetate and glucose, are precursors for both fatty acid and sterol synthesis, while leucine only contributes to sterol production in the tsetse fly midgut stage of the parasite. Degradation of these carbon sources into lipids was investigated using a combination of reverse genetics and analysis of radio-labelled precursors incorporation into lipids. For instance, (i) deletion of the gene encoding isovaleryl-CoA dehydrogenase, involved in the leucine degradation pathway, abolished leucine incorporation into sterols, and (ii) RNAi-mediated down-regulation of the SCP2-thiolase gene expression abolished incorporation of the three ketogenic carbon sources into sterols. The SCP2-thiolase is part of a unidirectional two-step bridge between the fatty acid precursor, acetyl-CoA, and the precursor of the mevalonate pathway leading to sterol biosynthesis, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA. Metabolic flux through this bridge is increased either in the isovaleryl-CoA dehydrogenase null mutant or when the degradation of the ketogenic carbon sources is affected. We also observed a preference for fatty acids synthesis from ketogenic carbon sources, since blocking acetyl-CoA production from both glucose and threonine abolished acetate incorporation into sterols, while incorporation of acetate into fatty acids was increased. Interestingly, the growth of the isovaleryl-CoA dehydrogenase null mutant, but not that of the parental cells, is interrupted in the absence of ketogenic carbon sources, including lipids, which demonstrates the essential role of the mevalonate pathway. We concluded that procyclic trypanosomes have a strong preference for fatty acid versus sterol biosynthesis from ketogenic carbon sources, and as a consequence, that leucine is likely to be the main source, if not the only one, used by trypanosomes in the infected insect vector digestive tract to feed the mevalonate pathway.