Giardia intestinalis trophozoites encyst when they are exposed to bile. During encystment, events related to the inducible synthesis of a novel N-acetyl-d-galactosamine (GalNAc) homopolymer, occur. Within the first 6 h of encystment, mRNA for glucosamine 6-P isomerase (GPI), the first inducible enzyme unique to this pathway appears, oxygen uptake rates double from non-encysting levels, and metronidazole (MTZ) inhibits oxygen uptake. Within 12 h, GPI and its activity are detectable and OU decreases 50% from non-encysting levels; glucose's stimulation and MTZ's inhibition of oxygen uptake cease. In contrast, aspartate uptake remained constant throughout the 40 h monitored. Two genes, gpi 1 and 2 encode for GPI, but only gpi1 is expressed during encystment. Glucosamine 6-P (GlcN6P), the synthetic product of GPI, activates UDP-N-acetylglucosamine (UDP-GlcNAc) pyrophosphorylase, a downstream enzyme, 3 to 5-fold in the direction of UDP-GlcNAc synthesis. UDP-GlcNAc is epimerized to UDP-GalNAc and UDP-GalNAc is polymerized by “cyst wall synthase” (β 1 ;ra 3 GalNAc transferase) into a highly insoluble β 1,3-linked homopolymer. This GalNAc polysaccharide, the major component of cyst wall filaments, forms, in conjunction with polypeptides, the outer cyst wall of Giardia.
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