The metabolic network of a cell represents the catabolic and anabolic reactions that interconvert small molecules (metabolites) through the activity of enzymes, transporters and non-catalyzed chemical reactions. Our understanding of individual metabolic networks is increasing as we learn more about the enzymes that are active in particular cells under particular conditions and as technologies advance to allow detailed measurements of the cellular metabolome. Metabolic network databases are of increasing importance in allowing us to contextualise data sets emerging from transcriptomic, proteomic and metabolomic experiments. Here we present a dynamic database, TrypanoCyc (http://www.metexplore.fr/trypanocyc/), which describes the generic and condition-specific metabolic network of Trypanosoma brucei, a parasitic protozoan responsible for human and animal African trypanosomiasis. In addition to enabling navigation through the BioCyc-based TrypanoCyc interface, we have also implemented a network-based representation of the information through MetExplore, yielding a novel environment in which to visualise the metabolism of this important parasite.
While the apicomplexan parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii are thought to primarily depend on glycolysis for ATP synthesis, recent studies have shown that they can fully catabolize glucose in a canonical TCA cycle. However, these parasites lack a mitochondrial isoform of pyruvate dehydrogenase and the identity of the enzyme that catalyses the conversion of pyruvate to acetyl-CoA remains enigmatic. Here we demonstrate that the mitochondrial branched chain ketoacid dehydrogenase (BCKDH) complex is the missing link, functionally replacing mitochondrial PDH in both T. gondii and P. berghei. Deletion of the E1a subunit of T. gondii and P. berghei BCKDH significantly impacted on intracellular growth and virulence of both parasites. Interestingly, disruption of the P. berghei E1a restricted parasite development to reticulocytes only and completely prevented maturation of oocysts during mosquito transmission. Overall this study highlights the importance of the molecular adaptation of BCKDH in this important class of pathogens.
The first line treatment for Chagas disease, a neglected tropical disease caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, involves administration of benznidazole (Bzn). Bzn is a 2-nitroimidazole pro-drug which requires nitroreduction to become active, although its mode of action is not fully understood. In the present work we used a non-targeted MS-based metabolomics approach to study the metabolic response of T. cruzi to Bzn.
The rapid emergence of metabolomics has enabled system-wide measurements of metabolites in various organisms. However, advances in the mechanistic understanding of metabolic networks remain limited, as most metabolomics studies cannot routinely provide accurate metabolite identification, absolute quantification and flux measurement. Stable isotope labeling offers opportunities to overcome these limitations. Here we describe some current approaches to stable isotope-labeled metabolomics and provide examples of the significant impact that these studies have had on our understanding of cellular metabolism. Furthermore, we discuss recently developed software solutions for the analysis of stable isotope-labeled metabolomics data and propose the bioinformatics solutions that will pave the way for the broader application and optimal interpretation of system-scale labeling studies in metabolomics.
During the asexual blood stage of its lifecycle, the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum grows and multiplies in the hemoglobin-rich environment of the human erythrocyte. Although the parasite has evolved unique strategies to survive in this environment, its interaction with iron represents an Achilles heel that is exploited by many antimalarial drugs. Recent work has shed new light on how the parasite deals with hemoglobin breakdown products and on the role of iron as a mediator of the action of the antimalarial drug, artemisinin.
SUMMARY The discovery, development and optimal utilization of pharmaceuticals can be greatly enhanced by knowledge of their modes of action. However, many drugs currently on the market act by unknown mechanisms. Untargeted metabolomics offers the potential to discover modes of action for drugs that perturb cellular metabolism. Development of high resolution LC-MS methods and improved data analysis software now allows rapid detection of drug-induced changes to cellular metabolism in an untargeted manner. Several studies have demonstrated the ability of untargeted metabolomics to provide unbiased target discovery for antimicrobial drugs, in particular for antiprotozoal agents. Furthermore, the utilization of targeted metabolomics techniques has enabled validation of existing hypotheses regarding antiprotozoal drug mechanisms. Metabolomics approaches are likely to assist with optimization of new drug candidates by identification of drug targets, and by allowing detailed characterization of modes of action and resistance of existing and novel antiprotozoal drugs.
In vitro culture methods underpin many experimental approaches to biology and drug discovery. The modification of established cell culture methods to make them more biologically relevant or to optimize growth is traditionally a laborious task. Emerging metabolomic technology enables the rapid evaluation of intra- and extracellular metabolites and can be applied to the rational development of cell culture media. In this study, untargeted semiquantitative and targeted quantitative metabolomic analyses of fresh and spent media revealed the major nutritional requirements for the growth of bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei. The standard culture medium (HMI11) contained unnecessarily high concentrations of 32 nutrients that were subsequently removed to make the concentrations more closely resemble those normally found in blood. Our new medium, Creeks minimal medium (CMM), supports in vitro growth equivalent to that in HMI11 and causes no significant perturbation of metabolite levels for 94% of the detected metabolome (<3-fold change; ? = 0.05). Importantly, improved sensitivity was observed for drug activity studies in whole-cell phenotypic screenings and in the metabolomic mode of action assays. Four-hundred-fold 50% inhibitory concentration decreases were observed for pentamidine and methotrexate, suggesting inhibition of activity by nutrients present in HMI11. CMM is suitable for routine cell culture and offers important advantages for metabolomic studies and drug activity screening.
Toxoplasma gondii belongs to the coccidian subgroup of the Apicomplexa phylum. The Coccidia are obligate intracellular pathogens that establish infection in their mammalian host via the enteric route. These parasites lack a mitochondrial pyruvate dehydrogenase complex but have preserved the degradation of branched-chain amino acids (BCAA) as a possible pathway to generate acetyl-CoA. Importantly, degradation of leucine, isoleucine and valine could lead to concomitant accumulation of propionyl-CoA, a toxic metabolite that inhibits cell growth. Like fungi and bacteria, the Coccidia possess the complete set of enzymes necessary to metabolize and detoxify propionate by oxidation to pyruvate via the 2-methylcitrate cycle (2-MCC). Phylogenetic analysis provides evidence that the 2-MCC was acquired via horizontal gene transfer. In T.?gondii tachyzoites, this pathway is split between the cytosol and the mitochondrion. Although the rate-limiting enzyme 2-methylisocitrate lyase is dispensable for parasite survival, its substrates accumulate in parasites deficient in the enzyme and its absence confers increased sensitivity to propionic acid. BCAA is also dispensable in tachyzoites, leaving unresolved the source of mitochondrial acetyl-CoA.
Metabolomics is an emerging field of postgenomic biology concerned with comprehensive analysis of small molecules in biological systems. However, difficulties associated with the identification of detected metabolites currently limit its application. Here we demonstrate that a retention time prediction model can improve metabolite identification on a hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC)-high-resolution mass spectrometry metabolomics platform. A quantitative structure retention relationship (QSRR) model, incorporating six physicochemical variables in a multiple-linear regression based on 120 authentic standard metabolites, shows good predictive ability for retention times of a range of metabolites (cross-validated R(2) = 0.82 and mean squared error = 0.14). The predicted retention times improved metabolite identification by removing 40% of the false identifications that occurred with identification by accurate mass alone. The importance of this procedure was demonstrated by putative identification of 690 metabolites in extracts of the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei, thus allowing identified metabolites to be mapped onto an organism-wide metabolic network, providing opportunities for future studies of cellular metabolism from a global systems biology perspective.
This work describes a novel application of capillary-flow ion chromatography mass spectrometry for metabolomic analysis, and comparison of the technique to octadecyl silica and hydrophilic interaction chromatography (HILIC)-based mass spectrometry. While liquid chromatography/mass spectrometry (LC/MS) is rapidly becoming the standard technique for metabolomic analysis, metabolomic samples are extremely heterogeneous, leading to a requirement for multiple methods of analysis and separation techniques to perform a global metabolomic analysis. While C18 is suitable for hydrophobic metabolites and has been used extensively in pharmaceutical drug metabolism studies, HILIC is, in general, efficient at separating polar metabolites. Phosphorylated species and organic acids are challenging to analyse and effectively quantitate on both systems. There is therefore a requirement for an MS-compatible analytical technique that can separate negatively charged compounds, such as ion-exchange chromatography. Evaluation of capillary flow ion chromatography with electrolytic suppression was performed on a library of metabolite standards and was shown to effectively separate organic acids and sugar di- and tri-phosphates. Limits of detection for these compounds range from 0.01 to 100 pmol on-column. Application of capillary ion chromatography to a comparative analysis of energy metabolism in procyclic forms of the parasitic protozoan Trypanosoma brucei where cells were grown on glucose or proline as a carbon source was demonstrated to be more effective than HILIC for detection of the organic acids that comprise glucose central metabolism and the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle.
This work describes a freely available web-based facility which can be used to analyse raw or processed mass spectrometric data from metabolomics experiments and display the metabolites identified--and changes in their experimental abundance--in the context of the metabolic pathways in which they occur. The facility, Pathos (http://motif.gla.ac.uk/Pathos/), employs Java servlets and is underpinned by a relational database populated from the Kyoto Encyclopaedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG). Input files can contain either raw m/z values from experiments conducted in different modes, or KEGG or MetaCyc IDs assigned by the user on the basis of the m/z values and other criteria. The textual output lists the KEGG pathways on an XHTML page according to the number of metabolites or potential metabolites that they contain. Filtering by organism is also available. For metabolic pathways of interest, the user is able to retrieve a pathway map with identified metabolites highlighted. A particular feature of Pathos is its ability to process relative quantification data for metabolites identified under different experimental conditions, and to present this in an easily comprehensible manner. Results are colour-coded according to the degree of experimental change, and bar charts of the results can be generated interactively from either the text listings or the pathway maps. The visual presentation of the output from Pathos is designed to allow the rapid identification of metabolic areas of potential interest, after which particular results may be examined in detail.
Metabolomics aims to measure all low molecular weight chemicals within a given system in a manner analogous to transcriptomics, proteomics and genomics. In this review we highlight metabolomics approaches that are currently being applied to the kinetoplastid parasites, Trypanosoma brucei and Leishmania spp. The use of untargeted metabolomics approaches, made possible through advances in mass spectrometry and informatics, and stable isotope labelling has increased our understanding of the metabolism in these organisms beyond the views established using classical biochemical approaches. Set within the context of metabolic networks, predicted using genome-wide reconstructions of metabolism, new hypotheses on how to target aspects of metabolism to design new drugs against these protozoa are emerging.
Ozonide OZ439 is a synthetic peroxide antimalarial drug candidate designed to provide a single-dose oral cure in humans. OZ439 has successfully completed Phase I clinical trials, where it was shown to be safe at doses up to 1,600 mg and is currently undergoing Phase IIa trials in malaria patients. Herein, we describe the discovery of OZ439 and the exceptional antimalarial and pharmacokinetic properties that led to its selection as a clinical drug development candidate. In vitro, OZ439 is fast-acting against all asexual erythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum stages with IC(50) values comparable to those for the clinically used artemisinin derivatives. Unlike all other synthetic peroxides and semisynthetic artemisinin derivatives, OZ439 completely cures Plasmodium berghei-infected mice with a single oral dose of 20 mg/kg and exhibits prophylactic activity superior to that of the benchmark chemoprophylactic agent, mefloquine. Compared with other peroxide-containing antimalarial agents, such as the artemisinin derivatives and the first-generation ozonide OZ277, OZ439 exhibits a substantial increase in the pharmacokinetic half-life and blood concentration versus time profile in three preclinical species. The outstanding efficacy and prolonged blood concentrations of OZ439 are the result of a design strategy that stabilizes the intrinsically unstable pharmacophoric peroxide bond, thereby reducing clearance yet maintaining the necessary Fe(II)-reactivity to elicit parasite death.
Artemether-lumefantrine (AL) and dihydroartemisinin-piperaquine (DP) are highly efficacious antimalarial therapies in Africa. However, there are limited data regarding the tolerability of these drugs in young children. We used data from a randomized control trial in rural Uganda to compare the risk of early vomiting (within one hour of dosing) for children 6-24 months of age randomized to receive DP (n = 240) or AL (n = 228) for treatment of uncomplicated malaria. Overall, DP was associated with a higher risk of early vomiting than AL (15.1% versus 7.1%; P = 0.007). The increased risk of early vomiting with DP was only present among breastfeeding children (relative risk [RR] = 3.35, P = 0.001) compared with children who were not breastfeeding (RR = 1.03, P = 0.94). Age less than 18 months was a risk factor for early vomiting independent of treatment (RR = 3.27, P = 0.02). Our findings indicate that AL may be better tolerated than DP among young breastfeeding children treated for uncomplicated malaria.
Human African trypanosomiasis, endemic to sub-Saharan Africa, is invariably fatal if untreated. Its causative agent is the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. Eflornithine is used as a first line treatment for human African trypanosomiasis, but there is a risk that resistance could thwart its use, even when used in combination therapy with nifurtimox. Eflornithine resistant trypanosomes were selected in vitro and subjected to biochemical and genetic analysis. The resistance phenotype was verified in vivo. Here we report the molecular basis of resistance. While the drugs target, ornithine decarboxylase, was unaltered in resistant cells and changes to levels of metabolites in the targeted polyamine pathway were not apparent, the accumulation of eflornithine was shown to be diminished in resistant lines. An amino acid transporter gene, TbAAT6 (Tb927.8.5450), was found to be deleted in two lines independently selected for resistance. Ablating expression of this gene in wildtype cells using RNA interference led to acquisition of resistance while expression of an ectopic copy of the gene introduced into the resistant deletion lines restored sensitivity, confirming the role of TbAAT6 in eflornithine action. Eflornithine resistance is easy to select through loss of a putative amino acid transporter, TbAAT6. The loss of this transporter will be easily identified in the field using a simple PCR test, enabling more appropriate chemotherapy to be administered.
Peroxide antimalarials, including artemisinin, are important for the treatment of multidrug-resistant malaria. These peroxides are known to react with iron or heme to produce reactive intermediates that are thought to be responsible for their antimalarial activities. This study investigated the potential interaction of selected peroxide antimalarials with oxyhemoglobin, the most abundant form of iron in the human body. The observed stability of artemisinin derivatives and 1,2,4-trioxolanes in the presence of oxyhemoglobin was in contrast to previous reports in the literature. Spectroscopic analysis of hemoglobin found it to be unstable under the conditions used for previous studies, and it appears likely that the artemisinin reactivity reported in these studies may be attributed to free heme released by protein denaturation. The stability of peroxide antimalarials with intact oxyhemoglobin, and reactivity with free heme, may explain the selective toxicity of these antimalarials toward infected, but not healthy, erythrocytes.
These data suggest that iron(II) reactivity for a set of homologous spiroadamantyl 1,2,4-trioxolane, 1,2,4-trioxane, and 1,2,4-trioxepane peroxide heterocycles is a necessary, but insufficient, property of animalarial peroxides. Heme alkylation efficiency appears to give a more accurate prediction of antimalarial activity than FeSO(4)-mediated reaction rates, suggesting that antimalarial activity is not merely dependent on peroxide bond cleavage, but also on the ability of reactive intermediates to alkylate heme or other proximal targets.
African trypanosomes are capable of both pyrimidine biosynthesis and salvage of preformed pyrimidines from the host. However, uptake of pyrimidines in bloodstream form trypanosomes has not been investigated, making it difficult to judge the relative importance of salvage and synthesis or to design a pyrimidine-based chemotherapy. Detailed characterization of pyrimidine transport activities in bloodstream form Trypanosoma brucei brucei found that these cells express a high-affinity uracil transporter (designated TbU3) that is clearly distinct from the procyclic pyrimidine transporters. This transporter had low affinity for uridine and 2deoxyuridine and was the sole pyrimidine transporter expressed in these cells. In addition, thymidine was taken up inefficiently through a P1-type nucleoside transporter. Of importance, the anticancer drug 5-fluorouracil was an excellent substrate for TbU3, and several 5-fluoropyrimidine analogs were investigated for uptake and trypanocidal activity; 5F-orotic acid, 5F-2deoxyuridine displayed activity in the low micromolar range. The metabolism and mode of action of these analogs was determined using metabolomic assessments of T. brucei clonal lines adapted to high levels of these pyrimidine analogs, and of the sensitive parental strains. The analysis showed that 5-fluorouracil is incorporated into a large number of metabolites but likely exerts toxicity through incorporation into RNA. 5F-2dUrd and 5F-2dCtd are not incorporated into nucleic acids but act as prodrugs by inhibiting thymidylate synthase as 5F-dUMP. We present the most complete model of pyrimidine salvage in T. brucei to date, supported by genome-wide profiling of the predicted pyrimidine biosynthesis and conversion enzymes.
Stable isotope-labelling experiments have recently gained increasing popularity in metabolomics studies, providing unique insights into the dynamics of metabolic fluxes, beyond the steady-state information gathered by routine mass spectrometry. However, most liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry data analysis software lacks features that enable automated annotation and relative quantification of labelled metabolite peaks. Here, we describe mzMatch-ISO, a new extension to the metabolomics analysis pipeline mzMatch.R.
The combination of high-resolution LC-MS-based untargeted metabolomics with stable isotope tracing provides a global overview of the cellular fate of precursor metabolites. This methodology enables detection of putative metabolites from biological samples and simultaneous quantification of the pattern and extent of isotope labeling. Labeling of Trypanosoma brucei cell cultures with 50% uniformly (13)C-labeled glucose demonstrated incorporation of glucose-derived carbon into 187 of 588 putatively identified metabolites in diverse pathways including carbohydrate, nucleotide, lipid, and amino acid metabolism. Labeling patterns confirmed the metabolic pathways responsible for the biosynthesis of many detected metabolites, and labeling was detected in unexpected metabolites, including two higher sugar phosphates annotated as octulose phosphate and nonulose phosphate. This untargeted approach to stable isotope tracing facilitates the biochemical analysis of known pathways and yields rapid identification of previously unexplored areas of metabolism.
A non-targeted metabolomics-based approach is presented that enables the study of pathways in response to drug action with the aim of defining the mode of action of trypanocides. Eflornithine, a polyamine pathway inhibitor, and nifurtimox, whose mode of action involves its metabolic activation, are currently used in combination as first line treatment against stage 2, CNS-involved, human African trypanosomiasis (HAT). Drug action was assessed using an LC-MS based non-targeted metabolomics approach. Eflornithine revealed the expected changes to the polyamine pathway as well as several unexpected changes that point to pathways and metabolites not previously described in bloodstream form trypanosomes, including a lack of arginase activity and N-acetylated ornithine and putrescine. Nifurtimox was shown to be converted to a trinitrile metabolite indicative of metabolic activation, as well as inducing changes in levels of metabolites involved in carbohydrate and nucleotide metabolism. However, eflornithine and nifurtimox failed to synergise anti-trypanosomal activity in vitro, and the metabolomic changes associated with the combination are the sum of those found in each monotherapy with no indication of additional effects. The study reveals how untargeted metabolomics can yield rapid information on drug targets that could be adapted to any pharmacological situation.
In this study, we assessed three liquid chromatographic platforms: reversed phase (RP), aqueous normal phase (ANP), and hydrophilic interaction (HILIC) for the analysis of polar metabolite standard mixtures and for their coverage of urinary metabolites. The two zwitterionic HILIC columns showed high-quality chromatographic performance for metabolite standards, improved separation for isomers, and the greatest coverage of polar metabolites in urine. In contrast, on the reversed phase column, most metabolites eluted very rapidly with little or no separation. Using an Exactive Orbitrap mass spectrometer with a HILIC liquid chromatographic platform, approximately 970 metabolite signals with repeatable peak areas (relative standard deviation (RSD) ? 25%) could be putatively identified in human urine, by elemental composition assignment within a 3 ppm mass error. The ability of the methodology for the verification of nonmolecular ions, which arise from adduct formation, and the possibility of distinguishing isomers could also be demonstrated. Careful examination of the raw data and the use of masses for predicted metabolites produced an extension of the metabolite list for human urine.
The application of emerging metabolomics technologies to the comprehensive investigation of cellular biochemistry has been limited by bottlenecks in data processing, particularly noise filtering and metabolite identification. IDEOM provides a user-friendly data processing application that automates filtering and identification of metabolite peaks, paying particular attention to common sources of noise and false identifications generated by liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS) platforms. Building on advanced processing tools such as mzMatch and XCMS, it allows users to run a comprehensive pipeline for data analysis and visualization from a graphical user interface within Microsoft Excel, a familiar program for most biological scientists.
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