Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2009

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In


First Advisor

Wilson, Mary E.

First Committee Member

Apicella, Michael A.

Second Committee Member

Donelson, John E.

Third Committee Member

Jones, Bradley D.

Fourth Committee Member

Roller, Richard J.


Leishmania chagasi is the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis in South America. The most abundant glycoprotein on the surface of L. chagasi promastigotes is the glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI) anchored protease MSP (major surface protease), also called GP63. MSP is encoded by more than 18 tandem MSP genes on a single chromosome. MSP genes are classified according to unique sequences at their 3' ends and distinct expression patterns. The five MSPS genes (MSPS1, MSPS2, etc.) express 3.0 kb RNAs in stationary phase of promastigote growth in vitro in culture. The > twelve MSPL genes express 2.7 kb RNAs in logarithmic phase of promastigote growth, and the single MSPC RNA is constitutively expressed as two RNA species (2.6 and 3.1 kb) throughout promastigote growth. The progression from logarithmic to stationary phase is accompanied by an increase in parasite virulence for a mammalian host, and a 16-fold increase in the total MSP protein associated with the cell. As such, MSP has been called a virulence factor of leishmania. Little is known about the differences between isoforms of MSP proteins encoded by the three MSP gene classes, because they have a very similar amino acid sequences. The purpose of this thesis was to study the protein expression and localization of MSPS, MSPL, and MSPC in the promastigote and amastigote stages of the L. chagasi. We took three approaches to this problem. First, we produced constructs in which the fluorescent marker GFP was flanked by putative targeting sequences of the MSPs. Second, we generated Leishmania transfectants expressing Myc-tagged full-length MSPs and studied their localization in promastigote cells. Third, we generated antibodies to immunogenic peptides in the few regions with unique sequences that allowed us to distinguish between some of the MSP classes. One monoclonal anti-peptide antibody, named C51, recognized only MSPS1 and MSPL1. Data indicated that the product of the MSPC gene runs at a higher molecular size than products of the MSPL and MSPS genes, both of which localize to the promastigote surface. Overall the data set the stage for future studies of the properties and functions of specific MSP gene products.


antibody, Leishmania, localization, MSP


xii, 129 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 118-129).


Copyright 2009 Patricia Ann Storlie

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Microbiology Commons