Cystatins from filarial parasites: Evolution, adaptation and function in the host-parasite relationship

William F. Gregory, Rick M. Maizels

Research output: Contribution to journalLiterature reviewpeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Cystatins, together with stefins and kininogens, are members of the cystatin superfamily of cysteine protease inhibitors (CPI) present across the animal and plant kingdoms. Their role in parasitic organisms may encompass both essential developmental processes and specific interactions with the parasite's vector and/or final host. We summarise information gathered on three cystatins from the human filarial nematode Brugia malayi (Bm-CPI-1, -2 and -3), and contrast them those expressed by other parasites and by the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. Bm-CPI-2 differs from C. elegans cystatin, having acquired the additional function of inhibiting asparaginyl endopeptidase (AEP), in a manner similar to some human cystatins. Thus, we propose that Bm-CPI-2 and orthologues from related filarial parasites represent a new subset of nematode cystatins. Bm-CPI-1 and CPI-3 share only 25% amino acid identity with Bm-CPI-2, and lack an evolutionarily conserved glycine residue in the N-terminal region. These sequences group distantly from the other nematode cystatins, and represent a second novel subset of filarial cystatin-like genes. Expression analyses also show important differences between the CPI-2 and CPI-1/-3 groups. Bm-cpi-2 is expressed at all time points of the parasite life cycle, while Bm-cpi-1 and -3 expression is confined to the late stages of development in the mosquito vector, terminating within 48 h of infection of the mammalian host. Hence, we hypothesise that CPI-2 has evolved to block mammalian proteases (including the antigen-processing enzyme AEP) while CPI-1 and -3 function in the milieu of the mosquito vector necessary for transmission of the parasite. (c) 2007 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1389-1398
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Issue number6-7
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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