Properties of trypanothione synthetase from Trypanosoma brucei

Sandra L. Oza, Mark R. Ariyanayagam, Niall Aitcheson, Alan H. Fairlamb

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63 Citations (Scopus)


Trypanothione [N1,N8-bis(glutathionyl)spermidine] plays a central role in defence against oxidant damage, ribonucleotide metabolism and in resistance to certain drugs in trypanosomatids. In Crithidia fasciculata, synthesis of trypanothione involves sequential conjugation of two molecules of glutathione (GSH) to spermidine by two enzymes: glutathionylspermidine synthetase (GspS; EC and trypanothione synthetase (TryS; EC, whereas in Trypanosoma cruzi both steps are catalysed by an unusual TryS with broad substrate specificity. To determine which route operates in T. brucei, we have cloned and expressed a single copy gene with similarity to C. fasciculata and T. cruzi TRYS. The purified recombinant protein catalyses formation of trypanothione from either spermidine and GSH, or glutathionylspermidine and GSH. The enzyme displays high substrate inhibition with GSH as variable substrate (apparent Km=56μM, Kis=37μM, kcat=2.9s-1). At a fixed subsaturating GSH concentration (100μM), the enzyme obeys simple hyperbolic kinetics yielding apparent Km values for spermidine, glutathionylspermidine and MgATP of 38, 2.4, and 7.1μM, respectively. Recombinant TryS can also catalyse conversion of spermine to glutathionylspermine and bis(glutathionyl)spermine, as recently reported for T. cruzi. The enzyme has amidase activity that can be inhibited by iodoacetamide. Studies using GSH and polyamine analogues identified GSH as the critical determinant for recognition by the amidase domain. Thus, the biosynthesis and degradation of trypanothione are similar in African and American trypanosomes, and different from the insect trypanosomatid, C. fasciculata.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)25-33
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2003


  • Amidase
  • Biosynthesis
  • Glutathione
  • Polyamine
  • Synthetase
  • Trypanothione

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Molecular Biology


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