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The Protozoan Trichomonas vaginalis Targets Bacteria with Laterally Acquired NlpC/P60 Peptidoglycan Hydrolases

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Jacob BiboyORCiD, Professor Waldemar Vollmer, Professor Robert HirtORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


The human eukaryotic pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis causes trichomoniasis, a prevalent sexually transmitted infection. This extracellular protozoan is intimately associated with the human vaginal mucosa and microbiota but key aspects of the complex interactions between the parasite and the vaginal bacteria remain elusive. We report that T. vaginalis has acquired, by lateral gene transfer from bacteria, genes encoding peptidoglycan hydrolases of the NlpC/P60 family. Two of the T. vaginalis enzymes were active against bacterial peptidoglycan, retaining the active site fold and specificity as DL-endopeptidases. The endogenous NlpC/P60 genes are transcriptionally up regulated in T. vaginalis when in the presence of bacteria. The over-expression of an exogenous copy enables the parasite to compete out bacteria from mixed cultures, consistent with the biochemical activity of the enzyme. Our study highlights the relevance of the interactions of this eukaryotic pathogen with bacteria, a poorly understood aspect on the biology of this important human parasite.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pinheiro J, Biboy J, Vollmer W, Hirt RP, Keown JR, Artuyants A, Black MM, Goldstone DC, Simoes-Barbosa A

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: mBio

Year: 2018

Volume: 9

Issue: 6

Online publication date: 11/12/2018

Acceptance date: 01/11/2018

Date deposited: 05/11/2018

ISSN (print): 2161-2129

ISSN (electronic): 2150-7511

Publisher: American Society for Microbiology


DOI: 10.1128/mBio.01784-18


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Funder referenceFunder name
Wellcome Trust