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Bifunctional dihydrofolate reductase–thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) is a chemically and genetically validated target in African trypanosomes, causative agents of sleeping sickness in humans and nagana in cattle. Here we report the kinetic properties and sensitivity of recombinant enzyme to a range of lipophilic and classical antifolate drugs. The purified recombinant enzyme, expressed as a fusion protein with elongation factor Ts (Tsf) in ThyA- Escherichia coli, retains DHFR activity, but lacks any TS activity. TS activity was found to be extremely unstable (half-life of 28 s) following desalting of clarified bacterial lysates to remove small molecules. Stability could be improved 700-fold by inclusion of dUMP, but not by other pyrimidine or purine (deoxy)-nucleosides or nucleotides. Inclusion of dUMP during purification proved insufficient to prevent inactivation during the purification procedure. Methotrexate and trimetrexate were the most potent inhibitors of DHFR (Ki 0.1 and 0.6 nM, respectively) and FdUMP and nolatrexed of TS (Ki 14 and 39 nM, respectively). All inhibitors showed a marked drop-off in potency of 100- to 1,000-fold against trypanosomes grown in low folate medium lacking thymidine. The most potent inhibitors possessed a terminal glutamate moiety suggesting that transport or subsequent retention by polyglutamylation was important for biological activity. Supplementation of culture medium with folate markedly antagonised the potency of these folate-like inhibitors, as did thymidine in the case of the TS inhibitors raltitrexed and pemetrexed.
W. Gibson, M., Dewar, S., Ong, H. B., Sienkiewicz, N., & Fairlamb, A. (2016). Trypanosoma brucei DHRF-TS revisited: characterisation of a bifunctional and highly unstable recombinant dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 10(5), 1-20. [e0004714]. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0004714