In Leishmania major, the Homolog of the Oncogene PES1 May Play a Critical Role in Parasite Infectivity
Leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by Leishmania spp. The improvement of existing treatments and the discovery of new drugs remain ones of the major goals in control and eradication of this disease. From the parasite genome, we have identified the homologue of the human oncogene PES1 in Leishmania major (LmjPES). It has been demonstrated that PES1 is involved in several processes such as ribosome biogenesis, cell proliferation and genetic transcription. Our phylogenetic studies showed that LmjPES encodes a highly conserved protein containing three main domains: PES N-terminus (shared with proteins involved in ribosomal biogenesis), BRCT (found in proteins related to DNA repair processes) and MAEBL-type domain (C-terminus, related to erythrocyte invasion in apicomplexan). This gene showed its highest expression level in metacyclic promastigotes, the infective forms; by fluorescence microscopy assay, we demonstrated the nuclear localization of LmjPES protein. After generating mutant parasites overexpressing LmjPES, we observed that these clones displayed a dramatic increase in the ratio of cell infection within macrophages. Furthermore, BALB/c mice infected with these transgenic parasites exhibited higher footpad inflammation compared to those inoculated with non-overexpressing parasites.