Our previous investigation demonstrated the expression in Eimeria tenella sporulated oocysts of an aminopeptidase (AP) with strong homology to AP N. To further understand the role of proteases during development, we investigated the molecular and biochemical properties of E. tenella AP. Greater than 95% AP activity was present in a soluble extract during sporulation of oocysts with highest activity in fully sporulated oocysts. The AP activity was inhibited by the AP inhibitors bestatin and 1,6-phenanthroline, but not by serine protease inhibitors. The AP had specificity for synthetic endopeptidase substrates that contain arginine, alanine, or glycine at the N terminus. Partial purification of the enzyme yielded a major protein band with an Mr of about 106 kDa and an isoelectric point (Ip) of 5.1. Reverse transcription-polymerase chain reaction indicated that the gene for AP is expressed during sporulation, but expression is absent or greatly reduced in the sporozoites and merozoites. On the basis of the deduced gene structure, the predicted Mr is 110 kDa with a pI of 5.59. Database search indicates that the E. tenella AP shares significant homology with the AP from Apicomplexan taxa: Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Cryptosporidium hominis. Together, these results confirm the presence of a cytosolic AP related to AP N, which is expressed and active during sporulation of E. tenella oocysts.

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