Formation and excretion of acetate as a metabolic end product of energy metabolism occurs in many protist and helminth parasites, such as the parasitic helminths Fasciola hepatica, Haemonchus contortus and Ascaris suum, and the protist parasites, Giardia lamblia, Entamoeba histolytica, Trichomonas vaginalis as well as Trypanosoma and Leishmania spp. In all of these parasites acetate is a main end product of their energy metabolism, whereas acetate formation does not occur in their mammalian hosts. Acetate production might therefore harbour novel targets for the development of new anti-parasitic drugs. In parasites, acetate is produced from acetyl-CoA by two different reactions, both involving substrate level phosphorylation, that are catalysed by either a cytosolic acetyl-CoA synthetase (ACS) or an organellar acetate:succinate CoA-transferase (ASCT). The ACS reaction is directly coupled to ATP synthesis, whereas the ASCT reaction yields succinyl-CoA for ATP formation via succinyl-CoA synthetase (SCS). Based on recent work on the ASCTs of F. hepatica, T. vaginalis and Trypanosoma brucei we suggest the existence of three subfamilies of enzymes within the CoA-transferase family I. Enzymes of these three subfamilies catalyse the ASCT reaction in eukaryotes via the same mechanism, but the subfamilies share little sequence homology. The CoA-transferases of the three subfamilies are all present inside ATP-producing organelles of parasites, those of subfamily IA in the mitochondria of trypanosomatids, subfamily IB in the mitochondria of parasitic worms and subfamily IC in hydrogenosome-bearing parasites. Together with the recent characterisation among non-parasitic protists of yet a third route of acetate formation involving acetate kinase (ACK) and phosphotransacetylase (PTA) that was previously unknown among eukaryotes, these recent developments provide a good opportunity to have a closer look at eukaryotic acetate formation.

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International Journal for Parasitology
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Tielens, L., Grinsven, K. W. A., Henze, K., van Hellemond, J., & Martin, W. (2010). Acetate formation in the energy metabolism of parasitic helminths and protists. International Journal for Parasitology (Vol. 40, pp. 387–397). doi:10.1016/j.ijpara.2009.12.006