An Atypical Mitochondrial Carrier That Mediates Drug Action in Trypanosoma brucei
Trypanosoma brucei is a kinetoplastid parasite of medical and veterinary importance. Its digenetic life cycle alternates between the bloodstream form in the mammalian host and the procyclic form (PCF) in the bloodsucking insect vector, the tsetse fly. PCF trypanosomes rely in the glucose-depleted environment of the insect vector primarily on the mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation of proline for their cellular ATP provision. We previously identified two T. brucei mitochondrial carrier family proteins, TbMCP5 and TbMCP15, with significant sequence similarity to functionally characterized ADP/ATP carriers from other eukaryotes. Comprehensive sequence analysis confirmed that TbMCP5 contains canonical ADP/ATP carrier sequence features, whereas they are not conserved in TbMCP15. Heterologous expression in the ANC-deficient yeast strain JL1Δ2Δ3u(-) revealed that only TbMCP5 was able to restore its growth on the non-fermentable carbon source lactate. Transport studies in yeast mitochondria showed that TbMCP5 has biochemical properties and ADP/ATP exchange kinetics similar to those of Anc2p, the prototypical ADP/ATP carrier of S. cerevisiae. Immunofluorescence microscopy and Western blot analysis confirmed that TbMCP5 is exclusively mitochondrial and is differentially expressed with 4.5-fold more TbMCP5 in the procyclic form of the parasite. Silencing of TbMCP5 expression in PCF T. brucei revealed that this ADP/ATP carrier is essential for parasite growth, particularly when depending on proline for energy generation. Moreover, ADP/ATP exchange in isolated T. brucei mitochondria was eliminated upon TbMCP5 depletion. These results confirmed that TbMCP5 functions as the main ADP/ATP carrier in the trypanosome mitochondrion. The important role of TbMCP5 in the T. brucei energy metabolism is further discussed.