The de novo L-cysteine biosynthetic pathway is critical for the growth, antioxidative stress defenses, and pathogenesis of bacterial and protozoan pathogens, such as Salmonella typhimurium and Entamoeba histolytica. This pathway involves two key enzymes, serine acetyltransferase (SAT) and cysteine synthase (CS), which are absent in mammals and therefore represent rational drug targets. The human parasite E. histolytica possesses three SAT and CS isozymes; however, the specific roles of individual isoforms and significance of such apparent redundancy remains unclear. In the present study, we generated E. histolytica cell lines in which CS and SAT expression was knocked down by transcriptional gene silencing. The strain in which CS1, 2 and 3 were simultaneously silenced and the SAT3 gene-silenced strain showed impaired growth when cultured in a cysteine lacking BI-S-33 medium, whereas silencing of SAT1 and SAT2 had no effects on growth. Combined transcriptomic and metabolomic analyses revealed that, CS and SAT3 are involved in S-methylcysteine/cysteine synthesis. Furthermore, silencing of the CS1-3 or SAT3 caused upregulation of various iron-sulfur flavoprotein genes. Taken together, these results provide the first direct evidence of the biological importance of SAT3 and CS isoforms in E. histolytica and justify the exploitation of these enzymes as potential drug targets.
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