Lipid Biochemistry

A parasite's phospholipid

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Science  18 Dec 2015:
Vol. 350, Issue 6267, pp. 1488-1489
DOI: 10.1126/science.350.6267.1488-e

Evolution of a new phospholid led Toxoplasma gondii to parasitism

PHOTO: EYE OF SCIENCE/SCIENCE SOURCE

The phospholipid repertoire used in animal cell membranes is surprisingly limited, but another candidate has emerged. During investigations on virulence in the ubiquitous animal and human protist parasite Toxoplasma gondii, Arroyo-Olarte et al. identified phosphatidylthreonine (PtdThr) as an abundant constituent. A small evolutionary accident seems to have allowed T. gondii to become parasitic by shifting from phosphatidylserine- to phosphatidylthreonine-based membranes. Although mutant parasites lacking PtdThr can replicate, they are paralyzed and neither able to enter nor exit host cells. PtdThr mutants provoke strong immune responses and look promising as vaccine candidates. Because the synthetic enzyme PtdThr synthase was also characterized, there is scope for drug interventions too.

PLOS Biol. 10.13 71/journal.pbio.1002288 (2015).

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