We report the isolation and characterization of a genomic clone containing the open reading frame sequence for 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA (HMG-CoA) reductase from Trypanosoma cruzi, the causative agent of Chagas' disease. The protozoan gene encoded for a smaller polypeptide than the rest of the genes described from eukaryotic organisms and the deduced amino acid sequence could be aligned with the C-terminal half of animal and plant reductases exhibiting pronounced similarity to other eukaryotic counterparts. Further examination of the 5′ flanking region by cDNA analysis and establishment of the splice acceptor sites clearly indicated that the corresponding mRNA apparently lacks sequences encoding a membrane N-terminal domain. The reductase gene is a single copy and is located on a chromosome of 1.36 Mb as determined by contour-clamped homogeneous electric field electrophoresis. The overall cellular distribution of enzymic activity was investigated after differential centrifugation of Trypanosoma cell extracts. Reductase activity was primarily associated with the cellular soluble fraction because 95% of the total cellular activity was recovered in the supernatant and was particularly sensitive to proteolytic inactivation. Furthermore the enzyme can be efficiently overexpressed in a highly active form by using the expression vector pET-11c. Thus Trypanosoma cruziHMG-CoA reductase is unique in the sense that it totally lacks the membrane-spanning sequences present in all eukaryotic HMG-CoA reductases so far characterized.

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