6-Phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (6PGDH) is a key enzyme of the oxidative branch involved in the generation of NADPH and ribulose 5-phosphate. In the present work, we describe the cloning, sequencing and characterization of a 6PGDH gene from Leishmania (Leishmania) mexicana. The gene encodes a polypeptide chain of 479 amino acid residues with a predicted molecular mass of 52 kDa and a pI of 5.77. The recombinant protein possesses a dimeric quaternary structure and displays kinetic parameter values intermediate between those reported for Trypanosoma brucei and T. cruzi with apparent Km values of 6.93 and 5.2 µM for 6PG and NADP+, respectively. The three-dimensional structure of the enzymes of Leishmania and T. cruzi were modelled from their amino acid sequence using the crystal structure of the enzyme of T. brucei as template. The amino acid residues located in the 6PGDH C-terminal region, which are known to participate in the salt bridges maintaining the protein dimeric structure, differed significantly among the enzymes of Leishmania, T. cruzi, and T. brucei. Our results strongly suggest that 6PGDH can be selected as a potential target for the development of new therapeutic drugs in order to improve existing chemotherapeutic treatments against these parasites.

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