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Exploitation of the protein tubulin for controlling African trypanosomiasis

Giles, Natalie (2005) Exploitation of the protein tubulin for controlling African trypanosomiasis. PhD thesis, Murdoch University.

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This thesis presents the results of an investigation into the structural protein, tubulin, as a potential target for anti-trypanosomatid drug discovery and vaccine development. Recombinant alpha- and beta- tubulin proteins from Trypanosoma brucei rhodesiense were expressed as soluble fusion proteins in an E. coli expression system. The recombinant alpha- and beta- tubulins were used to determine the nature of binding of novel trifluralin analogues EPL-AJ 1003, 1007, 1008, 1016 and 1017. Native tubulin from rats was used to determine the extent of binding to mammalian tubulin. The results of this study clearly demonstrate two important aspects of the binding of trifluralins to tubulin. Firstly, they have specific affinity for trypanosomal tubulin compared with mammalian regardless of the chemical composition of the trifluralin analogue tested. Secondly, they have a demonstrably stronger affinity for alpha-tubulin compared with beta-tubulin. In addition, compounds 1007, 1008, 1016 and 1017 have strong binding affinities for alpha-tubulin, with limited binding affinity for mammalian tubulin, which indicates that these compounds selectively bind to trypanosomal tubulin.

The morphology of bloodstream forms of T. b. rhodesiense exposed to trifluralin analogues was studied using electron microscopy and immunofluorescence to determine the ultrastructural changes these compounds induce as a result of binding to tubulin. All compounds tested induced severe irreparable damage in T. b. rhodesiense, including perturbation of subpellicular microtubules, extensive cytoplasmic swellings, axoneme and paraflagellar rod malformation, disconfiguration around the flagellar pocket and membrane disintegration. These results suggest that the mechanism of action of these trifluralin analogues is through the disruption of polymerization of tubulin into microtubules as a result of binding to alpha-tubulin.

The potential for recombinant trypanosomal tubulins to be used as vaccine candidates was assessed by monitoring parasitaemia and length of survival of mice immunised with the proteins and challenged with a lethal infection of T. b. rhodesiense. Although all the mice vaccinated with recombinant tubulin developed a patent parasitaemia and did not survive, they were partially protected because their patency period and length of survival were significantly greater than the control groups. Furthermore, plasma collected from mice immunised with recombinant trypanosomal tubulin contained antibodies that recognized tubulin in a soluble extraction from T. b. rhodesiense. The results of this thesis confirm the potential for the structural protein, tubulin, to be used as a target for anti-trypanosomatid drug discovery and vaccine development.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Supervisor(s): Reid, Simon
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