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Glucose metabolism is critical for the African trypanosome, Trypanosoma brucei, as an essential metabolic process and regulator of parasite development. Little is known about the cellular responses generated when environmental glucose levels change. In both bloodstream and procyclic form (insect stage) parasites, glycosomes house most of glycolysis. These organelles are rapidly acidified in response to glucose deprivation, which likely results in the allosteric regulation of glycolytic enzymes such as hexokinase. In previous work, localizing the chemical probe used to make pH measurements was challenging, limiting its utility in other applications. This paper describes the development and use of parasites that express glycosomally localized pHluorin2, a heritable protein pH biosensor. pHluorin2 is a ratiometric pHluorin variant that displays a pH (acid)-dependent decrease in excitation at 395 nm while simultaneously yielding an increase in excitation at 475 nm. Transgenic parasites were generated by cloning the pHluorin2 open reading frame into the trypanosome expression vector pLEW100v5, enabling inducible protein expression in either lifecycle stage. Immunofluorescence was used to confirm the glycosomal localization of the pHluorin2 biosensor, comparing the localization of the biosensor to the glycosomal resident protein aldolase. The sensor responsiveness was calibrated at differing pH levels by incubating cells in a series of buffers that ranged in pH from 4 to 8, an approach we have previously used to calibrate a fluorescein-based pH sensor. We then measured pHluorin2 fluorescence at 405 nm and 488 nm using flow cytometry to determine glycosomal pH. We validated the performance of the live transgenic pHluorin2-expressing parasites, monitoring pH over time in response to glucose deprivation, a known trigger of glycosomal acidification in PF parasites. This tool has a range of potential applications, including potentially being used in high-throughput drug screening. Beyond glycosomal pH, the sensor could be adapted to other organelles or used in other trypanosomatids to understand pH dynamics in the live cell setting.


Daniel Call, Sabrina S Pizarro, Erica Tovey, Emily Knight, Carrie Baumgardner, Kenneth A Christensen, James C Morris. Measuring Dynamic Glycosomal pH Changes in Living Trypanosoma brucei. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE. 2024 Jan 19(203)

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PMID: 38314910

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