Identification of dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase as a virulence factor essential for the survival of Entamoeba histolytica in glucose-poor environments



Adaptation to nutritional changes is a key feature for successful survival of a pathogen within its host. The protozoan parasite Entamoeba histolytica normally colonizes the human colon and in rare occasions, this parasite spread to distant organs, such as the liver. E. histolytica obtains most of its energy from the fermentation of glucose into ethanol. In this study, we were intrigued to know how this parasite reacts to changes in glucose availability and we addressed this issue by performing a DNA microarray analysis of gene expression. Results show that parasites that were adapted to growth in absence of glucose increased their virulence and altered the transcription of several genes. One of these genes is the dihydropyrimidine dehydrogenase (DPD), which is involved in degradation of pyrimidines. We showed that this gene is crucial for the parasite's growth when the availability of glucose is limited. These data contribute to our understanding of the parasite's ability to survive in glucose-poor environments and reveal a new role for the DPD enzyme.