Trypanosoma cruzi, a pathogenic protozoan causing Chagas disease, lacks ornithine decarboxylase (ODC), the enzyme catalyzing the first step of polyamine biosynthetic pathway in eukaryotic cells. Our results indicate that the auxotrophy for diamines of T. cruzi epimastigotes is due to the absence of an active ODC gene in these parasites and not to the inability for the expression of this gene. The introduction of an exogenous complete coding region from Crithidia fasciculata ODC gene inserted in an expression vector specific for trypanosomatids induces the normal expression of the foreign genetic information allowing the transformed T. cruzi to overcome the exogenous polyamine requirement for growth. The enzyme expressed in the transformed parasites has shown a considerably extended metabolic stability. The loss of ODC activity in T. cruzi might be related to the parasite adaptation to the intracellular stages of its life cycle. Copyright (C) 1999 Federation of European Biochemical Societies.
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