Divergent metabolism between Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma brucei results in differential sensitivity to metabolic inhibition

Pete Steketee, Emily A. Dickie, James Iremonger, Kathryn Crouch, Edith Paxton, Siddharth Jayaraman, Omar Alfituri, Georgina Awuah-Mensah, Ryan Ritchie, Achim Schnaufer, Tim Rowan, Harry P. De Koning, Catarina Gadelha, Bill Wickstead, Michael P. Barrett, Liam Morrison

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Animal African Trypanosomiasis (AAT) is a debilitating livestock disease prevalent across sub-Saharan Africa, a main cause of which is the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma congolense. In comparison to the well-studied T. brucei, there is a major paucity of knowledge regarding the biology of T. congolense. Here, we use a combination of omics technologies and novel genetic tools to characterise core metabolism in T. congolense mammalian-infective bloodstream-form parasites, and test whether metabolic differences compared to T. brucei impact upon sensitivity to metabolic inhibition. Like the bloodstream stage of T. brucei, glycolysis plays a major part in T. congolense energy metabolism. However, the rate of glucose uptake is significantly lower in bloodstream stage T. congolense, with cells remaining viable when cultured in concentrations as low as 2 mM. Instead of pyruvate, the primary glycolytic endpoints are succinate, malate and acetate. Transcriptomics analysis showed higher levels of transcripts associated with the mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase complex, acetate generation, and the glycosomal succinate shunt in T. congolense, compared to T. brucei. Stable-isotope labelling of glucose enabled the comparison of carbon usage between T. brucei and T. congolense, highlighting differences in nucleotide and saturated fatty acid metabolism. To validate the metabolic similarities and differences, both species were treated with metabolic inhibitors, confirming that electron transport chain activity is not essential in T. congolense. However, the parasite exhibits increased sensitivity to inhibition of mitochondrial pyruvate import, compared to T. brucei. Strikingly, T. congolense exhibited significant resistance to inhibitors of fatty acid synthesis, including a 780-fold higher EC50 for the lipase and fatty acid synthase inhibitor Orlistat, compared to T. brucei. These data highlight that bloodstream form T. congolense diverges from T. brucei in key areas of metabolism, with several features that are intermediate between bloodstream- and insect-stage T. brucei. These results have implications for drug development, mechanisms of drug resistance and host-pathogen interactions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere1009734
JournalPLoS Pathogens
Issue number7
Early online date26 Jul 2021
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Jul 2021


Dive into the research topics of 'Divergent metabolism between Trypanosoma congolense and Trypanosoma brucei results in differential sensitivity to metabolic inhibition'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this