In contrast to their mammalian hosts, protozoan parasites do not synthesize purines de novo, but depend on preformed nucleotides that they purportedly obtain by salvage pathways. Nucleoside hydrolases may play a crucial role in that salvage process. By screening Leishmania donovani libraries with polyclonal antibodies against promastigote soluble exo-antigens, we have identified a cDNA encoding a protein with significant homology to nonspecific and uridine-inosine-preferring nucleoside hydrolases. Sequence comparison demonstrated that all the residues involved in Ca2+-binding and substrate recognition in the active site are conserved among the characterized protozoan nucleoside hydrolases. Genomic analysis suggests that it is a single copy gene in L. donovani, and its homologues are present in members representing other Leishmania species complexes. Both Northern blot and immunoblot analyses indicate that it is constitutively expressed in L. donovani promastigotes. The recombinant enzyme overexpressed in and purified from bacteria showed significant activity with all naturally occurring purine and pyrimidine nucleosides, and efficient utilization of p-nitrophenyl-β-d-ribofuranoside as a substrate. Altogether, the sequence comparison and substrate specificity data identify this L. donovani nucleoside hydrolase as a nonspecific nucleoside hydrolase. Further, the nucleoside hydrolase was localized to specific foci in L. donovani promastigotes by immunofluorescent assays. Although the conservation of the nucleoside hydrolases among protozoan parasites offers promise for the design of broad-spectrum anti-parasitic drugs, the existence of multiple and distinct nucleoside hydrolases in a single species demands special consideration.
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