Exported epoxide hydrolases modulate erythrocyte vasoactive lipids during Plasmodium falciparum infection

Natalie J. Spillman*, Varun K. Dalmia, Daniel E. Goldberg

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    24 Citations (Scopus)


    Erythrocytes are reservoirs of important epoxide-containing lipid signaling molecules, including epoxyeicosatrienoic acids (EETs). EETs function as vasodilators and anti-inflammatory modulators in the bloodstream. Bioactive EETs are hydrolyzed to less active diols (dihydroxyeicosatrienoic acids) by epoxide hydrolases (EHs). The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum infects host red blood cells (RBCs) and exports hundreds of proteins into the RBC compartment. In this study, we show that two parasite epoxide hydrolases, P. falciparum epoxide hydrolases 1 (PfEH1) and 2 (PfEH2), both with noncanonical serine nucleophiles, are exported to the periphery of infected RBCs. PfEH1 and PfEH2 were successfully expressed in Escherichia coli, and they hydrolyzed physiologically relevant erythrocyte EETs. Mutations in active site residues of PfEH1 ablated the ability of the enzyme to hydrolyze an epoxide substrate. Overexpression of PfEH1 or PfEH2 in parasite-infected RBCs resulted in a significant alteration in the epoxide fatty acids stored in RBC phospholipids. We hypothesize that the parasite disruption of epoxidecontaining signaling lipids leads to perturbed vascular function, creating favorable conditions for binding and sequestration of infected RBCs to the microvascular endothelium. IMPORTANCE The malaria parasite exports hundreds of proteins into the erythrocyte compartment. However, for most of these proteins, their physiological function is unknown. In this study, we investigate two “hypothetical” proteins of the α/β-hydrolase fold family that share sequence similarity with epoxide hydrolases (EHs)-enzymes that destroy bioactive epoxides. Altering EH expression in parasite-infected erythrocytes resulted in a significant change in the epoxide fatty acids stored in the host cell. We propose that these EH enzymes may help the parasite to manipulate host blood vessel opening and inflame the vessel walls as they pass through the circulation system. Understanding how the malaria parasite interacts with its host RBCs will aid in our ability to combat this deadly disease.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere01538-16
    Issue number5
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2016


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