Most adult parasitic helminths have an anaerobic energy metabolism in which fumarate is reduced to succinate by fumarate reductase. Rhodoquinone (RQ) is an essential component of the electron transport associated with this fumarate reduction, whereas ubiquinone (UQ) is used in the aerobic energy metabolism of parasites. Not known yet, however, is the RQ and UQ composition during the entire life cycle nor the origin of RQ in parasitic helminths. This report demonstrates the essential function of RQ in anaerobic energy metabolism during the entire life cycle of Fasciola hepatica, as the amount of RQ present reflected the importance of fumarate reduction in various stages. We also studied the origin of RQ, as earlier studies on the protozoan Euglena gracilis suggested that RQ is synthesized from UQ. Therefore, in parasitic helminths RQ might be synthesized by modification of UQ obtained from the host. However, we demonstrated that in F. hepatica adults RQ was not produced by modification of UQ obtained from the host but that RQ was synthesized de novo, as (i) the chain-length of the quinones of F. hepatica adults was not related to the chain length of the quinone of the host, (ii) despite many attempts we could never detect any in vitro conversion of UQ9 into RQ9 or into UQ10, neither by intact adult flukes nor by homogenates of F. hepatica adults and (iii) F. hepatica adults used mevalonate as precursor for the synthesis of RQ. We also showed that the rate of quinone synthesis in F. hepatica adults was comparable to that in the free-living nematode Caenorhabditis elegans. These results prompted the suggestion that RQ is synthesized via a pathway nearly identical to that of UQ biosynthesis: possibly only the last reaction differs.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Dr M.S.G. Kwa is thanked for supplying C. &guns and for helpful comments on its culture conditions, and Professor L.M.G. van Golde for valuable comments on the manuscript. R.V.V. Breukelen is thanked for supplying sheep-livers infected with F. hepatica. This work was supported by the Life Science Foundation (SLW) with financial aid from The Netherlands Organization for Scientific Research (NWO).