Proteome-wide Functional Profiling of Serine Hydrolases in the Human Malaria Parasite

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Virginia Tech

The serine hydrolase (SH) enzyme superfamily is one of the largest and most diverse enzyme classes in eukaryotes and prokaryotes. The most virulent human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has over 40 predicted serine hydrolases (SH). Prior investigation on a few of these have suggested their critical role in parasite biology. The majority of the SHs in P. falciparum have not been functionally characterized. Investigation of these uncharacterized SHs will provide new insights into essential features of parasite metabolism and possibly lead to new antimalarial targets. In this study, we have employed activity-based protein profiling (ABPP) and liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to functionally characterize SHs. In our effort to profile plasmodial SHs using ABPP, we have identified a human erythrocyte SH, acylpeptide hydrolase (APEH) in the developing parasites. This finding is the first report of internalization of host hydrolytic enzyme by the parasite. Treatment of parasites with an APEH specific triazole urea inhibitor, AA74-1, caused growth inhibition in parasites with poor potency in the first replication cycle, however, the potency dramatically increased in the second cycle. We show that this unique growth inhibition profile is due to the inability of AA74-1 to inhibit parasite-internalized APEH in vivo. These findings suggest that internalization of active APEH by the parasite is essential for parasite survival.

Lipases catalyze the hydrolysis of ester bonds of lipid species such as neutral lipids and phospholipids. Although roles of lipases in propagation, as well as virulence in various organisms, have been acknowledged, in P. falciparum lipases remain understudied. We combined LC-MS/MS with the SH-directed ABPP to identify lipases of SH superfamily in P. falciparum. We have identified 16 plasmodial SHs with putative lipase activity. Bioinformatics analysis of our identified lipases is consistent with our findings. We have screened a panel of various classes of SH inhibitors in a competitive ABPP. A plasmodial putative lipase was potently and specifically inhibited by human monoacylglycerol lipase inhibitor. This inhibition profile suggests it as a monoacylglycerol lipase which plays a role in releasing fatty acids from neutral lipid. This finding shows that how inhibitor screening can aid in building hypotheses on biological roles of an enzyme. Altogether, in this dissertation, we have presented a robust strategy of identifying and functionally characterizing SHs in P. falciparum, which opens the door to the discovery of new biological processes.

Plasmodium falciparum, malaria, serine hydrolase, lipase, acylpeptide hydrolase, activity-based protein profiling