Akt signalling in the human parasite 'Schistosoma mansoni'

McKenzie, Maxine (2017) Akt signalling in the human parasite 'Schistosoma mansoni'. (PhD thesis), Kingston University, .


The study of cell signalling in schistosomes is crucial in deepening our knowledge of the biology of these blood flukes, which affect hundreds of millions of people worldwide. Here, Akt/protein kinase B (PKB) signalling has been functionally characterised and mapped in Schistosoma mansoni; an Akt variant of approximately 52 kDa has been characterised and RNA interference of the S. mansoni Akt gene, resulted in an 84% reduction in Akt expression. The phosphorylation (activation) status of the characterised Akt protein was increased by host molecules, including insulin and L-arginine in somules and adult worms, and L-arginine and linoleic acid in cercariae. Akt phosphorylation (activation) was also attenuated by Akt Inhibitor X and herbimycin A treatment. Immunohistochemistry/confocal laser scanning microscopy revealed phosphorylated Akt in all S. mansoni human infective/resident life stages. Somules and adult worms displayed activated Akt primarily in the tegument, particularly the tubercles and gynaecophoric canal of adult males. Cercariae exhibited activated Akt in the nervous system and punctate regions along the length of the tail prompting investigation into the role of Akt in cercarial motility. Behavioural studies demonstrated a significant increase in cercarial swimming in response to host factors, which was attenuated following exposure to Akt inhibitor X. The striking activation of Akt observed in the tegument of adult worms stimulated research into its possible role in glucose uptake in this host-interactive layer. RNAi of Akt resulted in a 59% and 47% reduction in SGTP4 glucose transporter expression in male and female adult worms respectively with a concomitant reduction in glucose uptake by the parasite. In somules, the expression of SGTP4 and its evolution at the apical tegument membrane during transformation were significantly attenuated by Akt Inhibitor X; a 74% reduction in glucose uptake was also demonstrated following Akt inhibition. Bioinformatic analysis of S. mansoni Akt interacting proteins uncovered a putative connection between Akt and Rab vesicle trafficking proteins and a mechanistic model illuminating the possible role of Akt in the translocation of SGTP4 to the parasite surface was proposed. Collectively, this research highlights the significance of Akt in schistosome homeostasis and host-parasite interactions and thus demonstrates that Akt may be a suitable target for anti-schistosome drug development strategies.

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