Thioredoxin reductase from the malaria mosquito Anopheles gambiae: Comparisons with the orthologous enzymes of Plasmodium falciparum and the human host

Holger Bauer, Stephan Gromer, Andrea Urbani, Martina Schnölzer, R. Heiner Schirmer, Hans Michael Müller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The mosquito, Anopheles gambiae, is an important vector of Plasmodium falciparum malaria. Full genome analysis revealed that, as in Drosophila melanogaster, the enzyme glutathione reductase is absent in A. gambiae and functionally substituted by the thioredoxin system. The key enzyme of this system is thioredoxin reductase-1, a homodimeric FAD-containing protein of 55.3 kDa per subunit, which catalyses the reaction NADPH + H+ + thioredoxin disulfide → NADP+ + thioredoxin dithiol. The A. gambiae trxr gene is located on chromosome X as a single copy; it represents three splice variants coding for two cytosolic and one mitochondrial variant. The predominant isoform, A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase-1, was recombinantly expressed in Escherichia coli and functionally compared with the wild-type enzyme isolated in a final yield of 1.4 U·ml-1 of packed insect cells. In redox titrations, the substrate A. gambiae thioredoxin-1 (Km = 8.5 μM, kcat = 15.4 s-1 at pH 7.4 and 25°C) was unable to oxidize NADPH-reduced A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase-1 to the fully oxidized state. This indicates that, in contrast to other disulfide reductases, A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase-1 oscillates during catalysis between the four-electron reduced state and a two-electron reduced state. The thioredoxin reductases of the malaria system were compared. A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase-1 shares 52% and 45% sequence identity with its orthologues from humans and P. falciparum, respectively. A major difference among the three enzymes is the structure of the C-terminal redox centre, reflected in the varying resistance of catalytic intermediates to autoxidation. The relevant sequences of this centre are Thr-Cys-Cys-SerOH in A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase, Gly-Cys-selenocysteine-GlyOH in human thioredoxin reductase, and Cys-X-X-X-X-Cys-GlyOH in the P. falciparum enzyme. These differences offer an interesting approach to the design of species-specific inhibitors. Notably, A. gambiae thioredoxin reductase-1 is not a selenoenzyme but instead contains a highly unusual redox-active Cys-Cys sequence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4272-4281
Number of pages10
JournalEuropean Journal of Biochemistry
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2003


  • Anopheles gambiae
  • Diptera
  • Drosophila melanogaster
  • Insect redox metabolism
  • Plasmodium falciparum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry


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