Trypanosoma cruzi expresses a developmentally regulated neuraminidase (TCNA) implicated in parasite invasion of cells. We isolated full-length DNA clones encoding TCNA. Sequence analysis demonstrated an open reading frame coding for a polypeptide of 1,162 amino acids. In the N-terminus there is a cysteine-rich domain containing a stretch of 332 amino acids nearly 30% identical to the Clostridium perfringens neuraminidase, three repeat motifs highly conserved in bacterial and viral neuraminidases, and two segments with similarity to the YWTD repeats found in the low density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor and in other vertebrate and invertebrate proteins. This domain is connected by a structure characteristic of type III modules of fibronectin to a long terminal repeat (LTR) consisting of 44 full length copies of twelve amino acids rich (75%) in serine, threonine, and proline. LTR is unusual in that it contains at least 117 potential phosphorylation sites. At the extreme C-terminus is a hydrophobic segment of 35 amino acids, which could mediate anchorage of TCNA to membranes via a glycosylphosphatidylinositol linkage. This is the first time a protozoan protein has been found to contain a YWTD repeat and a fibronectin type III module. The domain structure of TCNA suggests that the enzyme may have functions additional to its catalytic activity such as in protein-protein interaction, which could play a role in T. cruzi binding to host cells.

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