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Dichloroacetate and Pyruvate Metabolism: Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Kinases as Targets Worth Investigating for Effective Therapy of Toxoplasmosis

Abstract : Toxoplasmosis, a protozoan infection caused by Toxoplasma gondii, is estimated to affect around 2.5 billion people worldwide. Nevertheless, the side effects of drugs combined with the long period of therapy usually result in discontinuation of the treatment. New therapies should be developed by exploring peculiarities of the parasite’s metabolic pathways, similarly to what has been well described in cancer cell metabolism. An example is the switch in the metabolism of cancer that blocks the conversion of pyruvate into acetyl coenzyme A in mitochondria. In this context, dichloroacetate (DCA) is an anticancer drug that reverts the tumor proliferation by inhibiting the enzymes responsible for this switch: the pyruvate dehydrogenase kinases (PDKs). DCA has also been used in the treatment of certain symptoms of malaria; however, there is no evidence of how this drug affects apicomplexan species. In this paper, we studied the metabolism of T. gondii and demonstrate that DCA also inhibits T. gondii’s in vitro infection with no toxic effects on host cells. DCA caused an increase in the activity of pyruvate dehydrogenase followed by an unbalanced mitochondrial activity. We also observed morphological alterations frequently in mitochondria and in a few apicoplasts, essential organelles for parasite survival. To date, the kinases that potentially regulate the activity of pyruvate metabolism in both organelles have never been described. Here, we confirmed the presence in the genome of two putative kinases (T. gondii PDK [TgPDK] and T. gondii branched-chain α-keto acid dehydrogenase kinase [TgBCKDK]), verified their cellular localization in the mitochondrion, and provided in silico data suggesting that they are potential targets of DCA. IMPORTANCE Currently, the drugs used for toxoplasmosis have severe toxicity to human cells, and the treatment still lacks effective and safer alternatives. The search for novel drug targets is timely. We report here that the treatment of T. gondii with an anticancer drug, dichloroacetate (DCA), was effective in decreasing in vitro infection without toxicity to human cells. It is known that PDK is the main target of DCA in mammals, and this inactivation increases the conversion of pyruvate into acetyl coenzyme A and reverts the proliferation of tumor cells. Moreover, we verified the mitochondrial localization of two kinases that possibly regulate the activity of pyruvate metabolism in T. gondii, which has never been studied. DCA increased pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH) activity in T. gondii, followed by an unbalanced mitochondrial activity, in a manner similar to what was previously observed in cancer cells. Thus, we propose the conserved kinases as potential regulators of pyruvate metabolism and interesting targets for new therapies.
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Submitted on : Sunday, January 10, 2021 - 9:59:00 AM
Last modification on : Tuesday, August 2, 2022 - 4:25:12 AM
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Mariana Galvão Ferrarini, Lindice Mitie Nisimura, Richard Marcel Bruno Moreira Girard, Mayke Bezerra Alencar, Mariana Sayuri Ishikawa Fragoso, et al.. Dichloroacetate and Pyruvate Metabolism: Pyruvate Dehydrogenase Kinases as Targets Worth Investigating for Effective Therapy of Toxoplasmosis. MSphere, American Society for Microbiology., 2021, 6 (1), ⟨10.1128/mSphere.01002-20⟩. ⟨hal-03104886⟩



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