Glucosamine inhibits inositol acylation of the glycosylphosphatidylinositol anchors in intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum

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Glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchors are crucial for the survival of the intraerythrocytic stage Plasmodium falciparum because of their role in membrane anchoring of merozoite surface proteins involved in parasite invasion of erythrocytes. Recently, we showed that mannosamine can prevent the growth of P. falciparum by inhibiting the GPI biosynthesis. Here, we investigated the effect of isomeric amino sugars glucosamine, galactosamine, and their N-acetyl derivatives on parasite growth and GPI biosynthesis. Glucosamine, but not galactosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, and N-acetylgalactosamine inhibited the growth of the parasite in a dose-dependent manner. Glucosamine specifically arrested the maturation of trophozoites, a stage at which the parasite synthesizes all of its GPI anchor pool and had no effect during the parasite growth from rings to early trophozoites and from late trophozoites to schizonts and merozoites. An analysis of GPI intermediates formed when parasites incubated with glucosamine indicated that the sugar interferes with the inositol acylation of glucosamine-phosphatidylinositol (GlcN-PI) to form GlcN-(acyl)PI. Consistent with the non-inhibitory effect on parasite growth, galactosamine, N-acetylglucosamine, and N-acetylgalactosamine had no significant effect on the parasite GPI biosynthesis. The results indicate that the enzyme that transfers the fatty acyl moiety to inositol residue of GlcN-PI discriminates the configuration at C-4 of hexosamines. An analysis of GPIs formed in a cell-free system in the presence and absence of glucosamine suggests that the effect of the sugar is because of direct inhibition of the enzyme activity and not gene repression. Because the fatty acid acylation of inositol is an obligatory step for the addition of the first mannosyl residue during the biosynthesis of GPIs, our results offer a strategy for the development of novel anti-malarial drugs. Furthermore, this is the first study to report the specific inhibition of GPI inositol acylation by glucosamine in eukaryotes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2036-2042
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jan 17 2003

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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