CYP51 from Trypanosoma cruzi: A phyla-specific residue in the B′ helix defines substrate preferences of sterol 14α-demethylase

Galina I. Lepesheva, Natalia G. Zaitseva, W. David Nes, Wenxu Zhou, Miharu Arase, Jialin Liu, George C. Hill, Michael R. Waterman

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115 Scopus citations


A potential drug target for treatment of Chagas disease, sterol 14α-demethylase from Trypanosoma cruzi (TCCYP51), was found to be catalytically closely related to animal/fungi-like CYP51. Contrary to the ortholog from Trypanosoma brucei (TB), which like plant CYP51 requires C4-monomethylated sterol substrates, TCCYP51 prefers C4-dimethylsterols. Sixty-six CYP51 sequences are known from bacteria to human, their sequence homology ranging from ∼25% between phyla to ∼80% within a phylum. TC versus TB is the first example of two organisms from the same phylum, in which CYP51s (83% amino acid identity) have such profound differences in substrate specificity. Substitution of animal/fungi-like Ile105 in the B′ helix to Phe, the residue found in this position in all plant and the other six CYP51 sequences from Trypanosomatidae, dramatically alters substrate preferences of TCCYP51, converting it into a more plant-like enzyme. The rates of 14α-demethylation of obtusifoliol and its 24-demethyl analog 4α-,4α-dimethylcholesta-8,24-dien-3β-ol(norlanosterol) increase 60- and 150-fold, respectively. Turnover of the three 4,4-dimethylated sterol substrates is reduced ∼3.5-fold. These catalytic properties correlate with the sterol binding parameters, suggesting that Phe in this position provides necessary interactions with C4-monomethylated substrates, which Ile cannot. The CYP51 substrate preferences imply differences in the post-squalene portion of sterol biosynthesis in TC and TB. The phyla-specific residue can be used to predict preferred substrates of new CYP51 sequences and subsequently for the development of new artificial substrate analogs, which might serve as highly specific inhibitors able to kill human parasites.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3577-3585
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number6
StatePublished - Feb 10 2006


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