Modeling of the N-Glycosylated Transferrin Receptor Suggests How Transferrin Binding Can Occur within the Surface Coat of Trypanosoma brucei

Angela Mehlert, Mark R. Wormald, Michael A. J. Ferguson (Lead / Corresponding author)

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    Abstract

    The transferrin receptor of bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei is a heterodimer encoded by expression site associated genes 6 and 7. This low-abundance glycoprotein with a single glycosylphosphatidylinositol membrane anchor and eight potential N-glycosylation sites is located in the flagellar pocket. The receptor is essential for the parasite, providing its only source of iron by scavenging host transferrin from the bloodstream. Here, we demonstrate that both receptor subunits contain endoglycosidase H-sensitive and endoglycosidase H-resistant N-glycans. Lectin blotting of the purified receptor and structural analysis of the released N-glycans revealed oligomannose and paucimannose structures but, contrary to previous suggestions, no poly-N-acetyllactosamine structures were found. Overlay experiments suggest that the receptor can bind to other trypanosome glycoproteins, which may explain this discrepancy. Nevertheless, these data suggest that a current model, in which poly-N-acetyllactosamine glycans are directly involved in receptor-mediated endocytosis in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei, should be revised. Sequential endoglycosidase H and peptide-N-glycosidase F treatment, followed by tryptic peptide analysis, allowed the mapping of oligomannose and paucimannose structures to four of the receptor N-glycosylation sites. These results are discussed with respect to the current model for protein N-glycosylation in the parasite. Finally, the glycosylation data allowed the creation of a molecular model for the parasite transferrin receptor. This model, when placed in the context of a model for the dense variant surface glycoprotein coat in which it is embedded, suggests that receptor N-glycosylation may play an important role in providing sufficient space for the approach and binding of transferrin to the receptor, without significantly disrupting the continuity of the protective variant surface glycoprotein coat.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere1002618
    Pages (from-to)-
    Number of pages11
    JournalPLoS Pathogens
    Volume8
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Apr 2012

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