Sialic Acid Glycobiology Unveils Trypanosoma cruzi Trypomastigote Membrane Physiology

Andrés B. Lantos, Giannina Carlevaro, Beatriz Araoz, Pablo Ruiz Diaz, María de los Milagros Camara, Carlos A. Buscaglia, Mariano Bossi, Hai Yu, Xi Chen, Carolyn R. Bertozzi, Juan Mucci, Oscar Campetella

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43 Scopus citations


Trypanosoma cruzi, the flagellate protozoan agent of Chagas disease or American trypanosomiasis, is unable to synthesize sialic acids de novo. Mucins and trans-sialidase (TS) are substrate and enzyme, respectively, of the glycobiological system that scavenges sialic acid from the host in a crucial interplay for T. cruzi life cycle. The acquisition of the sialyl residue allows the parasite to avoid lysis by serum factors and to interact with the host cell. A major drawback to studying the sialylation kinetics and turnover of the trypomastigote glycoconjugates is the difficulty to identify and follow the recently acquired sialyl residues. To tackle this issue, we followed an unnatural sugar approach as bioorthogonal chemical reporters, where the use of azidosialyl residues allowed identifying the acquired sugar. Advanced microscopy techniques, together with biochemical methods, were used to study the trypomastigote membrane from its glycobiological perspective. Main sialyl acceptors were identified as mucins by biochemical procedures and protein markers. Together with determining their shedding and turnover rates, we also report that several membrane proteins, including TS and its substrates, both glycosylphosphatidylinositol-anchored proteins, are separately distributed on parasite surface and contained in different and highly stable membrane microdomains. Notably, labeling for α(1,3)Galactosyl residues only partially colocalize with sialylated mucins, indicating that two species of glycosylated mucins do exist, which are segregated at the parasite surface. Moreover, sialylated mucins were included in lipid-raft-domains, whereas TS molecules are not. The location of the surface-anchored TS resulted too far off as to be capable to sialylate mucins, a role played by the shed TS instead. Phosphatidylinositol-phospholipase-C activity is actually not present in trypomastigotes. Therefore, shedding of TS occurs via microvesicles instead of as a fully soluble form.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1005559
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Parasitology
  • Virology
  • Immunology
  • Genetics
  • Molecular Biology


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