The past, present and future of fluorescent protein tags in anaerobic protozoan parasites.

Abstract

The world health organization currently recognizes diarrhoeal diseases as a significant cause of death in children globally. Protozoan parasites such as Giardia and Entamoeba that thrive in the oxygen-deprived environment of the human gut are common etiological agents of diarrhoea. In the urogenital tract of humans, the anaerobic protozoan parasite Trichomonas vaginalis is notorious as the most common non-viral, sexually transmitted pathogen. Even with high medical impact, our understanding of anaerobic parasite physiology is scarce and as a result, treatment choices are limited. Fluorescent proteins (FPs) are invaluable tools as genetically encoded protein tags for advancing knowledge of cellular function. These FP tags emit fluorescent colours and once attached to a protein of interest, allow tracking of parasite proteins in the dynamic cellular space. Application of green FPs-like FPs in anaerobic protozoans is hindered by their oxygen dependency. In this review, we examine aspects of anaerobic parasite biology that clash with physio-chemical properties of FPs and limit their use as live-parasite protein tags. We expose novel FPs, such as miniSOG that do not require oxygen for signal production. The potential use of novel FPs has the opportunity to leverage the anaerobe parasitologist toolkit to that of aerobe parasitologist.

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