The unique glycoproteins of Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii
Haserick, John Robert
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Cryptosporidium parvum and Toxoplasma gondii are obligate intracellular parasites transmitted by ingestion of resilient walled structures called oocysts. Infection is self-limiting in adults with normal immune systems. However, severe disease can occur in immunocompromised individuals, or those without cellular immunity. Cryptosporidium is a leading cause of infant mortality in developing countries, due to diarrhea. There are no human vaccines and no broad effective drug treatments. Several vaccine candidates have been described: the glycoproteins Gp900, Gp40, and Gp15 and the protein Cp23, the immuno-dominant-antigen. Details about modifications to these proteins have not previously been reported. Using mass spectrometry, we identified 16 Cryptosporidium N-glycosylated proteins, including Gp900 and a possible oocyst wall protein. The observed N-glycan structures exhibited only two compositions: HexNAc2Hex5 and HexNAc2Hex6; these glycoforms had a single extended arm. The simplicity of Cryptosporidium N-glycans contrasts with the complexity of host N-glycans. Four heavily O-glycosylated proteins included Gp900, Gp40, Gp15, and a novel mucin-like protein, Gp20. Single O-HexNAc residues modified Ser/Thr in low density regions of Gp15 and Gp900, while attachment of O-HexNAc residues on tandem Ser/Thr repeats of Gp20 and Gp40 approached saturation. Identification of N-acetylgalactosamine (GalNAc) as the HexNAc released from proteins suggests that most Cryptosporidium O-glycans resemble the immunogenic Tn antigen (O-GalNAc). The immunodominant antigen Cp23, while not glycosylated, was discovered to be N-myristoylated and S-palmitoylated on the first and second residues, respectively. This is the first identification in Cryptosporidium of these modifications. Information about the N-glycans, O-glycans, and lipid modifications may be useful for design of better serodiagnostic reagents and more effective vaccines. To date, there are no vaccines against Toxoplasma infection, and the only available pharmaceutical therapies are expensive. In the second study, a novel O-fucose modification was discovered on nuclear pore-associated proteins including nucleoporins. This observation has profound implications on how the organism may regulate trafficking in/out of the nucleus by employing a system parallel to that described for O- linked N-acetylglucosamine in other organisms. In summary, the new details regarding the vaccine candidates of Cryptosporidium and the discovery of the novel O-fucose modifications in T. gondii provide information that could prove useful for development of effective drugs and vaccines.