Molecular cloning and characterization of Ras- and Raf-homologues from the fox-tapeworm Echinococcus multilocularis
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Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology 139 (2): 225--237 (February 2005)PMID: 15664657.

To better understand growth regulation in the human parasitic cestode Echinococcus multilocularis, we have cloned and characterized the parasite's orthologues of the key regulatory factors Ras and Raf. Using a degenerative PCR approach a gene, emras, was identified whose gene product, EmRas, showed high homology (79\% identical residues) to human Ras and contained all amino acid residues which are characteristic for this subfamily of small GTPases at the corresponding positions. Recombinantly expressed EmRas bound GTP and was farnesylated, but not geranyl-geranylated, by Echinococcus lysate in an in vitro prenylation assay. Furthermore, upon expression in yeast, emras was able to functionally complement the Saccharomyces orthologue RAS2 in an invasive growth assay. In Western blot analyses using an anti-EmRas antibody, the Echinococcus factor could be detected in lysates of the larval stages metacestode and protoscolex. By immune-histochemistry, EmRas was shown to localize to the germinal layer of the metacestode and to tegumental structures of the protoscolex, particularly around the rostellum and the sucker regions. In addition, we fully characterized the gene emraf whose product, EmRaf, displayed considerable homology to mammalian Raf-kinases and orthologous factors from Drosophila and Caenorhabditis elegans. emraf was co-expressed with emras in the larval stages metacestode and protoscolex during in vitro cultivation and during an infection of the intermediate host as assessed by RT-PCR experiments. The emraf gene was composed of nine exons and eight introns and shared four highly conserved exon-intron boundaries with the human gene encoding Raf-1, suggesting that both genes derived from a common evolutionary ancestor. Southern blot hybridizations demonstrated that emraf is a single copy gene. Using the yeast two-hybrid system, EmRaf was shown to interact with EmRas, but not with EmRal, a previously characterized orthologue of mammalian Ral GTPases. This is the first characterization of a Ras orthologue from a cestode and the first report on a Raf-like kinase from a platyhelminth. The data presented herein will form a solid basis for further investigations on Echinococcus signaling systems that are involved in growth control and development of the parasite.
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