Protozoa of the Leishmania genus cause a variety of disease forms that rank at the top of the list of neglected tropical diseases. Anti-leishmanial drugs based on pentavalent antimony have been the mainstay of therapy for over 60 years and resistance against them is increasingly encountered in the field. The biochemical basis for this is poorly understood and likely diverse. No stringent correlation between genetic markers and antimony resistance has so far been shown, prompting us to use a functional cloning approach to identify markers of resistance. Using gene libraries derived from drug-resistant and drug-sensitive Leishmania braziliensis clinical isolates in a functional cloning strategy, we repeatedly selected one gene locus located on chromosome 20 whose amplification confers increased antimony (III) resistance in vitro to an otherwise sensitive L. braziliensis clone. The gene responsible for the effect encodes a previously hypothetical protein that we dubbed LbrARM58. It comprises four repeats of a domain of unknown function, DUF1935, one of them harbouring a potential trans-membrane domain. The gene is so far unique to the Leishmania genus, while a structurally related gene without antimony resistance functionality is also found in Trypanosoma spp. Overexpression of LbrARM58 also confers antimony resistance to promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes of the related species Leishmania infantum, indicating a conserved function in Old World and New World Leishmania species. Our results also show that in spite of their RNAi system, L. braziliensis promastigotes can serve as acceptor cells for episomally propagated cosmid libraries, at least for the initial stages of functional cloning efforts.
|Journal||International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance|
|Number of pages||11|
|Publication status||Published - 2014|