• Apolipoprotein L1 Variant Associated with Increased Susceptibility to Trypanosome Infection

      Cuypers, B.; Lecordier, L.; Meehan, Conor J.; Van den Broeck, F.; Imamura, H.; Büscher, P.; Dujardin, J.-C.; Laukens, K.; Schnaufer, A.; Dewar, C.; et al. (2016-04-12)
      African trypanosomes, except Trypanosoma brucei gambiense and Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense, which cause human African trypanosomiasis, are lysed by the human serum protein apolipoprotein L1 (ApoL1). These two subspecies can resist human ApoL1 because they express the serum resistance proteins T. b. gambiense glycoprotein (TgsGP) and serum resistance-associated protein (SRA), respectively. Whereas in T. b. rhodesiense, SRA is necessary and sufficient to inhibit ApoL1, in T. b. gambiense, TgsGP cannot protect against high ApoL1 uptake, so different additional mechanisms contribute to limit this uptake. Here we report a complex interplay between trypanosomes and an ApoL1 variant, revealing important insights into innate human immunity against these parasites. Using whole-genome sequencing, we characterized an atypical T. b. gambiense infection in a patient in Ghana. We show that the infecting trypanosome has diverged from the classical T. b. gambiense strains and lacks the TgsGP defense mechanism against human serum. By sequencing the ApoL1 gene of the patient and subsequent in vitro mutagenesis experiments, we demonstrate that a homozygous missense substitution (N264K) in the membrane-addressing domain of this ApoL1 variant knocks down the trypanolytic activity, allowing the trypanosome to avoid ApoL1-mediated immunity. IMPORTANCE. Most African trypanosomes are lysed by the ApoL1 protein in human serum. Only the subspecies Trypanosoma b. gambiense and T. b. rhodesiense can resist lysis by ApoL1 because they express specific serum resistance proteins. We here report a complex interplay between trypanosomes and an ApoL1 variant characterized by a homozygous missense substitution (N264K) in the domain that we hypothesize interacts with the endolysosomal membranes of trypanosomes. The N264K substitution knocks down the lytic activity of ApoL1 against T. b. gambiense strains lacking the TgsGP defense mechanism and against T. b. rhodesiense if N264K is accompanied by additional substitutions in the SRA-interacting domain. Our data suggest that populations with high frequencies of the homozygous N264K ApoL1 variant may be at increased risk of contracting human African trypanosomiasis.
    • Modulation of Aneuploidy in Leishmania donovani during Adaptation to Different In Vitro and In Vivo Environments and Its Impact on Gene Expression.

      Dumetz, F.; Imamura, H.; Sanders, M.; Seblova, V.; Myskova, J.; Pescher, P.; Vanaerschot, M.; Meehan, Conor J.; Cuypers, B.; De Muylder, G.; et al. (2017-05)
      Aneuploidy is usually deleterious in multicellular organisms but appears to be tolerated and potentially beneficial in unicellular organisms, including pathogens. Leishmania, a major protozoan parasite, is emerging as a new model for aneuploidy, since in vitro-cultivated strains are highly aneuploid, with interstrain diversity and intrastrain mosaicism. The alternation of two life stages in different environments (extracellular promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes) offers a unique opportunity to study the impact of environment on aneuploidy and gene expression. We sequenced the whole genomes and transcriptomes of Leishmania donovani strains throughout their adaptation to in vivo conditions mimicking natural vertebrate and invertebrate host environments. The nucleotide sequences were almost unchanged within a strain, in contrast to highly variable aneuploidy. Although high in promastigotes in vitro, aneuploidy dropped significantly in hamster amastigotes, in a progressive and strain-specific manner, accompanied by the emergence of new polysomies. After a passage through a sand fly, smaller yet consistent karyotype changes were detected. Changes in chromosome copy numbers were correlated with the corresponding transcript levels, but additional aneuploidy-independent regulation of gene expression was observed. This affected stage-specific gene expression, downregulation of the entire chromosome 31, and upregulation of gene arrays on chromosomes 5 and 8. Aneuploidy changes in Leishmania are probably adaptive and exploited to modulate the dosage and expression of specific genes; they are well tolerated, but additional mechanisms may exist to regulate the transcript levels of other genes located on aneuploid chromosomes. Our model should allow studies of the impact of aneuploidy on molecular adaptations and cellular fitness.