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NlpC/P60 peptidoglycan hydrolases of Trichomonas vaginalis have complementary activities that empower the protozoan to control host-protective lactobacilli

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



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


Trichomonas vaginalis is a human protozoan parasite that causes trichomoniasis, a prevalent sexually transmitted infection. Trichomoniasis is accompanied by a shift to a dysbiotic vaginal microbiome that is depleted of lactobacilli. Studies on co-cultures have shown that vaginal bacteria in eubiosis (e.g. Lactobacillus gasseri) have antagonistic effects on T. vaginalis pathogenesis, suggesting that the parasite might benefit from shaping the microbiome to dysbiosis (e.g. Gardnerella vaginalis among other anaerobes). We have recently shown that T. vaginalis has acquired NlpC/P60 genes from bacteria, expanding them to a repertoire of nine TvNlpC genes in two distinct clans, and that TvNlpCs of clan A are active against bacterial peptidoglycan. Here, we expand this characterization to TvNlpCs of clan B. In this study, we show that the clan organisation of NlpC/P60 genes is a feature of other species of Trichomonas, and that Histomonas meleagridis has sequences related to one clan. We characterized the 3D structure of TvNlpC_B3 alone and with the inhibitor E64 bound, probing the active site of these enzymes for the first time. Lastly, we demonstrated that TvNlpC_B3 and TvNlpC_B5 have complementary activities with the previously described TvNlpCs of clan A and that exogenous expression of these enzymes empower this mucosal parasite to take over populations of vaginal lactobacilli in mixed cultures. TvNlpC_B3 helps control populations of L. gasseri, but not of G. vaginalis, which action is partially inhibited by E64. This study is one of the first to show how enzymes produced by a mucosal protozoan parasite may contribute to a shift on the status of a microbiome, helping explain the link between trichomoniasis and vaginal dysbiosis. Further understanding of this process might have significant implications for treatments in the future.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Barnett MJ, Pinheiro J, Keown JR, Biboy J, Gray J, Lucinescu I-W, Vollmer W, Hirt RP, Simoes-Barbosa A, Goldstone DC

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: PLoS Pathogens

Year: 2023

Volume: 19

Issue: 8

Online publication date: 16/08/2023

Acceptance date: 18/07/2023

Date deposited: 20/08/2023

ISSN (electronic): 1553-7374

Publisher: Public Library of Science


DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1011563


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Funder referenceFunder name
Maurice & Phyllis Paykel Trust
University of Auckland