Molecular and antigenic characterization of <i>Trypanosoma cruzi</i> TolT proteins

by Maite Lobo, Virginia Balouz, Luciano Melli, Giannina Carlevaro, María E. Cortina, María de los Milagros Cámara, Gaspar E. Cánepa, Santiago J. Carmona, Jaime Altcheh, Oscar Campetella, Andrés E. Ciocchini, Fernán Agüero, Juan Mucci, Carlos A. Buscaglia

Background

TolT was originally described as a Trypanosoma cruzi molecule that accumulated on the trypomastigote flagellum bearing similarity to bacterial TolA colicins receptors. Preliminary biochemical studies indicated that TolT resolved in SDS-PAGE as ~3–5 different bands with sizes between 34 and 45 kDa, and that this heterogeneity could be ascribed to differences in polypeptide glycosylation. However, the recurrent identification of TolT-deduced peptides, and variations thereof, in trypomastigote proteomic surveys suggested an intrinsic TolT complexity, and prompted us to undertake a thorough reassessment of this antigen.

Methods/Principle findings

Genome mining exercises showed that TolT constitutes a larger-than-expected family of genes, with at least 12 polymorphic members in the T. cruzi CL Brener reference strain and homologs in different trypanosomes. According to structural features, TolT deduced proteins could be split into three robust groups, termed TolT-A, TolT-B, and TolT-C, all of them showing marginal sequence similarity to bacterial TolA proteins and canonical signatures of surface localization/membrane association, most of which were herein experimentally validated. Further biochemical and microscopy-based characterizations indicated that this grouping may have a functional correlate, as TolT-A, TolT-B and TolT-C molecules showed differences in their expression profile, sub-cellular distribution, post-translational modification(s) and antigenic structure. We finally used a recently developed fluorescence magnetic beads immunoassay to validate a recombinant protein spanning the central and mature region of a TolT-B deduced molecule for Chagas disease serodiagnosis.

Conclusion/Significance

This study unveiled an unexpected genetic and biochemical complexity within the TolT family, which could be exploited for the development of novel T. cruzi biomarkers with diagnostic/therapeutic applications.

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