Trypanosoma cruzi, the protozoan that causes Chagas disease, proliferates inside mammalian cells as amastigotes. Through signs not yet known, the parasite grows and differentiates into tripomastigote form, which does not proliferate but can circulate in the bloodstream, invade new cells or transmit the infection to other hosts. To understand the mechanisms that control the parasite proliferation, our group studies how environmental changes interfere with their protein synthesis. We showed that phosphorylation of the alpha subunit of translation initiation factor elf2 (eIF2±) by specific protein kinases is required for differentiation of form epimastigotes that proliferates in the digestive tract of the insect vector to metacyclic that invade host cells. We also found that the knockout eIF2± kinase (TcK2) blocks the differentiation, but unexpectedly causes an increase of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by inhibiting growth. On the other hand, we noticed that the overexpression of a mitochondrial sirtuin, which is an enzyme capable of removing acetyl groups of lysines of proteins, activates various metabolic enzymes, causing a reduction in ROS levels with increased growth rate. In this PhD project we intend to assess how the absence of TcK2 and overexpression of the sirtuin cause changes in levels of ROS and if these modifications affect the growth and differentiation of intracellular forms of T. cruzi.
News published in Agência FAPESP Newsletter about the scholarship: