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Department of Pharmacology

Prole, DL, Taylor, CW

Mechanosensitive channels play important roles in the physiology of many organisms, and their dysfunction can affect cell survival. This suggests that they might be therapeutic targets in pathogenic organisms. Pathogenic protozoa lead to diseases such as malaria, dysentery, leishmaniasis and trypanosomiasis that are responsible for millions of deaths each year worldwide. We analyzed the genomes of pathogenic protozoa and show the existence within them of genes encoding putative homologues of mechanosensitive channels. Entamoeba histolytica, Leishmania spp., Trypanosoma cruzi and Trichomonas vaginalis have genes encoding homologues of Piezo channels, while most pathogenic protozoa have genes encoding homologues of mechanosensitive small-conductance (MscS) and K(+)-dependent (MscK) channels. In contrast, all parasites examined lack genes encoding mechanosensitive large-conductance (MscL), mini-conductance (MscM) and degenerin/epithelial Na(+) (DEG/ENaC) channels. Multiple sequence alignments of evolutionarily distant protozoan, amoeban, plant, insect and vertebrate Piezo channel subunits define an absolutely conserved motif that may be involved in channel conductance or gating. MscS channels are not present in humans, and the sequences of protozoan and human homologues of Piezo channels differ substantially. This suggests the possibility for specific targeting of mechanosensitive channels of pathogens by therapeutic drugs.

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December 2013
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Journal articles
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PLoS One
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