High-throughput chemical screening for antivirulence developmental phenotypes in Trypanosoma brucei.

Paula McGregor, Alasdair Ivens, Steven Shave, Iain Collie, David Gray, Manfred Auer, Keith R. Matthews

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    Abstract

    In the bloodstream of mammalian hosts, the sleeping sickness parasite, Trypanosoma brucei, exists as a proliferative slender form or a nonproliferative, transmissible, stumpy form. The transition between these developmental forms is controlled by a density-dependent mechanism that is important for the parasite's infection dynamics, immune evasion via ordered antigenic variation, and disease transmissibility. However, stumpy formation has been lost in most laboratory-adapted trypanosome lines, generating monomorphic parasites that proliferate uncontrolled as slender forms in vitro and in vivo. Nonetheless, these forms are readily amenable to cell culture and high-throughput screening for trypanocidal lead compounds. Here, we have developed and exploited a high-throughput screen for developmental phenotypes using a transgenic monomorphic cell line expressing a reporter under the regulation of gene control signals from the stumpy-specific molecule PAD1. Using a whole-cell fluorescence-based assay to screen over 6,000 small molecules from a kinase-focused compound library, small molecules able to activate stumpy-specific gene expression and proliferation arrest were assayed in a rapid assay format. Independent follow-up validation identified one hit able to induce modest, yet specific, changes in mRNA expression indicative of a partial differentiation to stumpy forms in monomorphs. Further, in pleomorphs this compound induced a stumpy-like phenotype, entailing growth arrest, morphological changes, PAD1 expression, and enhanced differentiation to procyclic forms. This not only provides a potential tool compound for the further understanding of stumpy formation but also demonstrates the use of high-throughput screening in the identification of compounds able to induce specific phenotypes, such as differentiation, in African trypanosomes.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)412-426
    Number of pages15
    JournalEukaryotic Cell
    Volume13
    Issue number3
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Mar 2014

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