Global Metabolomic Profiling of Host Red Blood Cells Infected with Babesia divergens Reveals Novel Antiparasitic Target Pathways
Divya Beri, Manpreet Singh, Marilis Rodriguez, Naman Goyal, Giselle Rasquinha, Yunfeng Liu, Xiuli An, Karina Yazdanbakhsh, Cheryl A. Lobo
Metabolomics, Parasite-Host Interactions
Babesia divergens is an apicomplexan parasite that infects human red blood cells (RBCs), initiating cycles of invasion, replication, and egress, resulting in extensive metabolic modification of the host cells. Babesia is an auxotroph for most of the nutrients required to sustain these cycles. There are currently limited studies on the biochemical pathways that support these critical processes, necessitating the high-resolution global metabolomics approach described here to uncover the metabolic interactions between parasite and host RBC. Our results reveal an extensive parasite-mediated modulation of RBC metabolite levels of all classes, including lipids, amino acids, carbohydrates, and nucleotides, with numerous metabolic species varying in proportion to the level of infection. Many of these molecules are scavenged from the host RBCs. This is in accord with the needs of a rapidly proliferating parasite with limited biosynthetic capabilities. Probing these pathways in depth, we used growth inhibition assays to quantitate parasite susceptibility to drugs targeting these pathways and stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy to obtain high-resolution images of drug-treated parasites to correlate changes in morphology with specific metabolic blocks in order to validate the data generated by the untargeted metabolomics platform. Thus, interruption of cholesterol scavenging from the host cell led to premature parasite egress, while chemical targeting of the hydrolysis of acyl glycerides led to the buildup of malformed parasites that could not successfully egress. This is the first report detailing the global metabolomic profile of the B. divergens-infected RBC. Besides deciphering diverse aspects of the host-parasite relationship, our results can be exploited by others to uncover further drug targets in the host-parasite biochemical network.