Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a major cell membrane constituent and precursor of important second messengers. In Leishmania parasites, PC synthesis can occur via the choline branch of the Kennedy pathway, the N-methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), or the remodeling of exogenous phospholipids. To investigate the role of de novo PC synthesis in Leishmania major, we focused on the cholinephosphate cytidylyltransferase (CPCT) which catalyzes the formation of CDP-choline, a key intermediate in the choline branch of the Kennedy pathway. Without CPCT, L. major parasites cannot incorporate choline into PC, yet the CPCT-null mutants contain similar levels of PC and PE as wild type parasites. Loss of CPCT does not affect the growth of parasites in complete medium or their virulence in mice. These results suggest that other mechanisms of PC synthesis can compensate the loss of CPCT. Importantly, CPCT-null parasites exhibited severe growth defects when ethanolamine and exogenous lipids became limited or when they were co-cultured with certain bacteria that are known to be members of sandfly midgut microbiota. These findings suggest that Leishmania employ multiple PC synthesis pathways to utilize a diverse pool of nutrients, which may be crucial for their survival and development in the sandfly.
- Membrane lipids
- Parasite biology