PLoS neglected tropical diseases

Identification of Giardia lamblia DHHC proteins and the role of protein S-palmitoylation in the encystation process.

PMID 25058047


Protein S-palmitoylation, a hydrophobic post-translational modification, is performed by protein acyltransferases that have a common DHHC Cys-rich domain (DHHC proteins), and provides a regulatory switch for protein membrane association. In this work, we analyzed the presence of DHHC proteins in the protozoa parasite Giardia lamblia and the function of the reversible S-palmitoylation of proteins during parasite differentiation into cyst. Two specific events were observed: encysting cells displayed a larger amount of palmitoylated proteins, and parasites treated with palmitoylation inhibitors produced a reduced number of mature cysts. With bioinformatics tools, we found nine DHHC proteins, potential protein acyltransferases, in the Giardia proteome. These proteins displayed a conserved structure when compared to different organisms and are distributed in different monophyletic clades. Although all Giardia DHHC proteins were found to be present in trophozoites and encysting cells, these proteins showed a different intracellular localization in trophozoites and seemed to be differently involved in the encystation process when they were overexpressed. dhhc transgenic parasites showed a different pattern of cyst wall protein expression and yielded different amounts of mature cysts when they were induced to encyst. Our findings disclosed some important issues regarding the role of DHHC proteins and palmitoylation during Giardia encystation.