Current Progress in the Fatty Acid Metabolism in Cryptosporidium parvum1 Academic Article uri icon


  • Cryptosporidium parvum is one of the apicomplexans that can cause severe diarrhea in humans and animals. The slow development of anti-cryptosporidiosis chemotherapy is primarily due to the poor understanding on the basic metabolic pathways in this parasite. Many well-defined or promising drug targets found in other apicomplexans are either absent or highly divergent in C. parvum. The recently discovered apicoplast and its associated Type II fatty acid synthetic enzymes in Plasmodium, Toxoplasma, and Eimeria apicomplexans are absent in C. parvum, suggesting this parasite is unable to synthesize fatty acids de novo. However, C. parvum possesses a giant Type I fatty acid synthase (CpFAS1) that makes very long chain fatty acids using mediate or long chain fatty acids as precursors. Cryptosporidium also contains a Type I polyketide synthase (CpPKS1) that is probably involved in the production of unknown polyketide(s) from a fatty acid precursor. In addition to CpFAS1 and CpPKS1, a number of other enzymes involved in fatty acid metabolism have also been identified. These include a long chain fatty acyl elongase (LCE), a cytosolic acetyl-CoA carboxylase (ACCase), three acyl-CoA synthases (ACS), and an unusual "long-type" acyl-CoA binding protein (ACBP), which allows us to hypothetically reconstruct the highly streamlined fatty acid metabolism in this parasite. However, C. parvum lacks enzymes for the oxidation of fatty acids, indicating that fatty acids are not an energy source for this parasite. Since fatty acids are essential components of all biomembranes, molecular and functional studies on these critical enzymes would not only deepen our understanding on the basic metabolism in the parasites, but also point new directions for the drug discovery against C. parvum and other apicomplexan-based diseases.

author list (cited authors)

  • Zhu, G.

citation count

  • 54

publication date

  • July 2004