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Oxidative Phosphorylation Is Required for Powering Motility and Development of the Sleeping Sickness Parasite Trypanosoma brucei in the Tsetse Fly Vector

Dewar, Caroline E., Casas Sanchez, Aitor ORCID:, Dieme, Constentin, Crouzols, Aline, Haines, Lee ORCID:, Acosta-Serrano, Alvaro ORCID:, Rotureau, Brice, Schnaufer, Achim and Hajduk, Stephen L. (2022) 'Oxidative Phosphorylation Is Required for Powering Motility and Development of the Sleeping Sickness Parasite Trypanosoma brucei in the Tsetse Fly Vector'. mBio, Vol 13, Issue 1, e02357-21.

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The single-celled parasite Trypanosoma brucei is transmitted by hematophagous tsetse flies. Life cycle progression from mammalian bloodstream form to tsetse midgut form and, subsequently, infective salivary gland form depends on complex developmental steps and migration within different fly tissues. As the parasite colonizes the glucose-poor insect midgut, ATP production is thought to depend on activation of mitochondrial amino acid catabolism via oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS). This process involves respiratory chain complexes and F1Fo-ATP synthase and requires protein subunits of these complexes that are encoded in the parasite's mitochondrial DNA (kDNA). Here, we show that progressive loss of kDNA-encoded functions correlates with a decreasing ability to initiate and complete development in the tsetse. First, parasites with a mutated F1Fo-ATP synthase with reduced capacity for OXPHOS can initiate differentiation from bloodstream to insect form, but they are unable to proliferate in vitro. Unexpectedly, these cells can still colonize the tsetse midgut. However, these parasites exhibit a motility defect and are severely impaired in colonizing or migrating to subsequent tsetse tissues. Second, parasites with a fully disrupted F1Fo-ATP synthase complex that is completely unable to produce ATP by OXPHOS can still differentiate to the first insect stage in vitro but die within a few days and cannot establish a midgut infection in vivo. Third, parasites lacking kDNA entirely can initiate differentiation but die soon after. Together, these scenarios suggest that efficient ATP production via OXPHOS is not essential for initial colonization of the tsetse vector but is required to power trypanosome migration within the fly.

IMPORTANCE African trypanosomes cause disease in humans and their livestock and are transmitted by tsetse flies. The insect ingests these parasites with its blood meal, but to be transmitted to another mammal, the trypanosome must undergo complex development within the tsetse fly and migrate from the insect's gut to its salivary glands. Crucially, the parasite must switch from a sugar-based diet while in the mammal to a diet based primarily on amino acids when it develops in the insect. Here, we show that efficient energy production by an organelle called the mitochondrion is critical for the trypanosome's ability to swim and to migrate through the tsetse fly. Surprisingly, trypanosomes with impaired mitochondrial energy production are only mildly compromised in their ability to colonize the tsetse fly midgut. Our study adds a new perspective to the emerging view that infection of tsetse flies by trypanosomes is more complex than previously thought.

Item Type: Article
Subjects: QU Biochemistry > Genetics > QU 450 General Works
QW Microbiology and Immunology > QW 51 Morphology and variability of microorganisms. Microbial genetics.
QW Microbiology and Immunology > Environmental Microbiology > QW 55 Environmental microbiology
QX Parasitology > QX 4 General works
QX Parasitology > Insects. Other Parasites > QX 505 Diptera
QX Parasitology > Insects. Other Parasites > QX 650 Insect vectors
WC Communicable Diseases > Tropical and Parasitic Diseases > WC 705 Trypanosomiasis
Faculty: Department: Biological Sciences > Vector Biology Department
Digital Object Identifer (DOI):
Depositing User: Samantha Sheldrake
Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2022 12:14
Last Modified: 27 Jan 2022 09:54


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