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A Trichomonas vaginalis Rhomboid Protease and Its Substrate Modulate Parasite Attachment and Cytolysis of Host Cells


Trichomonas vaginalis is an extracellular eukaryotic parasite that causes the most common, non-viral sexually transmitted infection worldwide. Although disease burden is high, molecular mechanisms underlying T. vaginalis pathogenesis are poorly understood. Here, we identify a family of putative T. vaginalis rhomboid proteases and demonstrate catalytic activity for two, TvROM1 and TvROM3, using a heterologous cell cleavage assay. The two T. vaginalis intramembrane serine proteases display different subcellular localization and substrate specificities. TvROM1 is a cell surface membrane protein and cleaves atypical model rhomboid protease substrates, whereas TvROM3 appears to localize to the Golgi apparatus and recognizes a typical model substrate. To identify TvROM substrates, we interrogated the T. vaginalis surface proteome using both quantitative proteomic and bioinformatic approaches. Of the nine candidates identified, TVAG_166850 and TVAG_280090 were shown to be cleaved by TvROM1. Comparison of amino acid residues surrounding the predicted cleavage sites of TvROM1 substrates revealed a preference for small amino acids in the predicted transmembrane domain. Over-expression of TvROM1 increased attachment to and cytolysis of host ectocervical cells. Similarly, mutations that block the cleavage of a TvROM1 substrate lead to its accumulation on the cell surface and increased parasite adherence to host cells. Together, these data indicate a role for TvROM1 and its substrate(s) in modulating attachment to and lysis of host cells, which are key processes in T. vaginalis pathogenesis.

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