Functional analysis of TbARL1, an N-myristoylated Golgi protein essential for viability in bloodstream trypanosomes

Helen P Price, Chrysoula Panethymitaki, David Goulding, Deborah F Smith

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Myristoyl-CoA:protein N-myristoyltransferase (NMT), an essential protein in Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania major, catalyses the covalent attachment of the fatty acid myristate to the N-terminus of a range of target proteins. In order to define the essential targets contributing to lethality in the absence of NMT activity, we have focused on the ADP-ribosylation factor (Arf) family of GTP-binding proteins, as growth arrest in Saccharomyces cerevisiae mutants with reduced NMT activity correlates with a decrease in N-myristoylated Arf proteins. We have identified nine Arf/Arls in the T. brucei and T. cruzi genomes and ten in L. major. Characterization of the T. brucei ARL1 homologue has revealed that the protein is localized in the Golgi apparatus and is expressed only in the mammalian bloodstream form of the parasite and not in the insect procyclic stage. This is the only reported example to date of a differentially expressed ARL1 homologue in any species. We have used RNA interference to demonstrate that ARL1 is essential for viability in T. brucei bloodstream parasites. Prior to cell death, depletion of ARL1 protein in bloodstream parasites results in abnormal morphology, including disintegration of the Golgi structure, multiple flagella and nuclei, and the presence of large numbers of vesicles. The cells have only a minor apparent defect in endocytosis but exocytosis of variant surface glycoprotein to the parasite surface is significantly delayed. RNA interference of ARL1 in procyclic cells has no effect on parasite growth or morphology. Our results suggest that there may be different pathways regulating Golgi structure and function in the two major life cycle stages of T. brucei.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)831-41
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue numberPt 4
Publication statusPublished - 15 Feb 2005


  • ADP-Ribosylation Factors
  • Acyltransferases
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Golgi Apparatus
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myristic Acid
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RNA Interference
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Trypanosoma brucei brucei

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