During infections with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) is utilized as a carbon source for parasite metabolism and also to facilitate parasite dissemination by stimulating dendritic-cell motility. The best-recognized function for GABA, however, is its role in the nervous system as an inhibitory neurotransmitter that regulates the flow and timing of excitatory neurotransmission. When this pathway is altered, seizures develop. Human toxoplasmosis patients suffer from seizures, suggesting that Toxoplasma interferes with GABA signaling in the brain. Here, we show that while excitatory glutamatergic presynaptic proteins appeared normal, infection with type II ME49 Toxoplasma tissue cysts led to global changes in the distribution of glutamic acid decarboxylase 67 (GAD67), a key enzyme that catalyzes GABA synthesis in the brain. Alterations in GAD67 staining were not due to decreased expression but rather to a change from GAD67 clustering at presynaptic termini to a more diffuse localization throughout the neuropil. Consistent with a loss of GAD67 from the synaptic terminals, Toxoplasma-infected mice develop spontaneous seizures and are more susceptible to drugs that induce seizures by antagonizing GABA receptors. Interestingly, GABAergic protein mislocalization and the response to seizure-inducing drugs were observed in mice infected with type II ME49 but not type III CEP strain parasites, indicating a role for a polymorphic parasite factor(s) in regulating GABAergic synapses. Taken together, these data support a model in which seizures and other neurological complications seen in Toxoplasma-infected individuals are due, at least in part, to changes in GABAergic signaling.
Infections of the central nervous system can cause seizures. While inflammation in the brain has been proposed to initiate the onset of the seizures, relatively little is known about how inflammation impacts the structure and function of the neurons. Here we used a parasite called Toxoplasma gondii that infects the brain and showed that seizures arise due to a defect in signaling of GABA, which is the neurotransmitter primarily responsible for preventing the onset of seizures.
Toxoplasma gondii is a global pathogen that infects a wide range of animals and humans. During T. gondii infection, the spleen plays an important role in coordinating the adaptive and innate immune responses. However, there is little information regarding the changes in global gene expression within the spleen following T. gondii infection. To address this gap in knowledge, we examined the transcriptome of the mouse spleen following T. gondii infection. We observed differential expression of 2310 transcripts under these conditions. Analysis of KEGG and GO enrichment indicated that T. gondii alters multiple immune signaling cascades. Most of differentially expressed GO terms and pathways were downregulated, while immune-related GO terms and pathways were upregulated with response to T. gondii infection in mouse spleen. Most cytokines were upregulated in infected spleens, and all differentially expressed chemokines were upregulated which enhanced the immune cells chemotaxis to promote recruitment of immune cells, such as neutrophils, eosinophils, monocytes, dendritic cells, macrophages, NK cells, basophils, B cells, and T cells. Although IFN-γ-induced IDO (Ido1) was upregulated in the present study, it may not contribute a lot to the control of T. gondii because most differentially expressed genes involved in tryptophan metabolism pathway were downregulated. Innate immunity pathways, including cytosolic nucleic acid sensing pathway and C-type lectins-Syk-Card9 signaling pathways, were upregulated. We believe our study is the first comprehensive attempt to define the host transcriptional response to T. gondii infection in the mouse spleen.
Autophagy is a catabolic process widely conserved among eukaryotes that permits the rapid degradation of unwanted proteins and organelles through the lysosomal pathway. This mechanism involves the formation of a double-membrane structure called the autophagosome that sequesters cellular components to be degraded. To orchestrate this process, yeasts and animals rely on a conserved set of autophagy-related proteins (ATGs). Key among these factors is ATG8, a cytoplasmic protein that is recruited to nascent autophagosomal membranes upon the induction of autophagy. Toxoplasma gondii is a potentially harmful human pathogen in which only a subset of ATGs appears to be present. Although this eukaryotic parasite seems able to generate autophagosomes upon stresses such as nutrient starvation, the full functionality and biological relevance of a canonical autophagy pathway are as yet unclear. Intriguingly, in T. gondii, ATG8 localizes to the apicoplast under normal intracellular growth conditions. The apicoplast is a nonphotosynthetic plastid enclosed by four membranes resulting from a secondary endosymbiosis. Using superresolution microscopy and biochemical techniques, we show that TgATG8 localizes to the outermost membrane of this organelle. We investigated the unusual function of TgATG8 at the apicoplast by generating a conditional knockdown mutant. Depletion of TgATG8 led to rapid loss of the organelle and subsequent intracellular replication defects, indicating that the protein is essential for maintaining apicoplast homeostasis and thus for survival of the tachyzoite stage. More precisely, loss of TgATG8 led to abnormal segregation of the apicoplast into the progeny because of a loss of physical interactions of the organelle with the centrosomes.
By definition, autophagy is a catabolic process that leads to the digestion and recycling of eukaryotic cellular components. The molecular machinery of autophagy was identified mainly in model organisms such as yeasts but remains poorly characterized in phylogenetically distant apicomplexan parasites. We have uncovered an unusual function for autophagy-related protein ATG8 in Toxoplasma gondii: TgATG8 is crucial for normal replication of the parasite inside its host cell. Seemingly unrelated to the catabolic autophagy process, TgATG8 associates with the outer membrane of the nonphotosynthetic plastid harbored by the parasite called the apicoplast, and there it plays an important role in the centrosome-driven inheritance of the organelle during cell division. This not only reveals an unexpected function for an autophagy-related protein but also sheds new light on the division process of an organelle that is vital to a group of important human and animal pathogens.
Macrophages display flexible activation states that range between pro-inflammatory (classical activation) and anti-inflammatory (alternative activation). These macrophage polarization states contribute to a variety of organismal phenotypes such as tissue remodeling and susceptibility to infectious and inflammatory diseases. Several macrophage- or immune-related genes have been shown to modulate infectious and inflammatory disease pathogenesis. However, the potential role that differences in macrophage activation phenotypes play in modulating differences in susceptibility to infectious and inflammatory disease is just emerging. We integrated transcriptional profiling and linkage analyses to determine the genetic basis for the differential murine macrophage response to inflammatory stimuli and to infection with the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii. We show that specific transcriptional programs, defined by distinct genomic loci, modulate macrophage activation phenotypes. In addition, we show that the difference between AJ and C57BL/6J macrophages in controlling Toxoplasma growth after stimulation with interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor alpha mapped to chromosome 3, proximal to the Guanylate binding protein (Gbp) locus that is known to modulate the murine macrophage response to Toxoplasma. Using an shRNA-knockdown strategy, we show that the transcript levels of an RNA helicase, Ddx1, regulates strain differences in the amount of nitric oxide produced by macrophage after stimulation with interferon gamma and tumor necrosis factor. Our results provide a template for discovering candidate genes that modulate macrophage-mediated complex traits.
Toxoplasma gondii, an important protozoan parasite, infects almost all warm-blooded animals and humans. Although treatments in T. gondii are limited by the lack of effective drugs, some calcium-dependent kinases were demonstrated as the promising drug targets to chemotherapy against T. gondii due to their essential roles in T. gondii and absence from their hosts. The objectives of the present study were to investigate the functions of six calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPK4, CDPK4A, CDPK5, CDPK6, CDPK8, and CDPK9) in T. gondii to assess whether they are suitable for designing as drug targets. We used the CRISPR-Cas9 system to disrupt six CDPK genes successfully by insertion of DHFR* at the guide RNA-targeted region in the six endogenous CDPK loci and successfully obtained the six knockout (KO)-CDPK strains. The biological characteristics of the six strains were evaluated by plaque assays, invasion, egress, replication, and virulence assays, respectively. The results indicated that there was no significant difference between the six KO-CDPK strains and wild-type strain in virulence and the lytic cycle including invasion, egress, and replication. The conclusion was the six CDPKs are not essential for T. gondii lytic cycle and also not virulence factors for mice, suggesting that the six CDPKs may participate in other functions in T. gondii.
CRISPR-Cas9 system; Calcium-dependent protein kinases (CDPKs); Gene functions; Toxoplasma gondii
We hypothesized that in Toxoplasma gondii infection, communication among immune cells promotes neuroinflammation through cytokine networks and induces pain sensitivity under conditions of neuropathic pain. The animal model of Toxoplasma infection was established by the intraperitoneal inoculation of 20-25 tissue cysts from Tehran strain of T. gondii to BALB/c mice. Amitriptyline (20 mg/kg, i.p., 1/day) administrated to animals for 7 days before behavioral tests. Pain behavioral tests including tail flick, hot plate, and formalin test were evaluated in all the groups. The mRNA levels of tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α, interleukin (IL)-1β, and IL-6 were examined by real-time PCR. Results revealed that T. gondii induce hyperalgesia in the infected mice, whereas amitriptyline showed a promising effect against the hyperalgesia induced by Toxoplasma infection. The mRNA levels of the aforementioned cytokines significantly (P < 0.05) increased in the infected mice compared to the uninfected ones. Obtained findings suggested that T. gondii infection could promote neuroinflammation through cytokine networks and induced hyperalgesia in BALB/c mice, whereas amitriptyline as an analgesic drug reverses them.
The nature of energy metabolism in apicomplexan parasites has been closely investigated in the recent years. Studies in Plasmodium spp. and Toxoplasma gondii in particular have revealed that these parasites are able to employ enzymes in non-traditional ways, while utilizing multiple anaplerotic routes into a canonical tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle to satisfy their energy requirements. Importantly, some life stages of these parasites previously considered to be metabolically quiescent are, in fact, active and able to adapt their carbon source utilization to survive. We compare energy metabolism across the life cycle of malaria parasites and consider how this varies in other apicomplexans and related organisms, while discussing how this can be exploited for therapeutic intervention in these diseases.
Toxoplasma gondii possesses sets of dense granule proteins (GRAs) that either assemble at, or cross the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) and exhibit motifs resembling the HT/PEXEL previously identified in a repertoire of exported Plasmodium proteins. Within Plasmodium spp., cleavage of the HT/PEXEL motif by the endoplasmic reticulum-resident protease Plasmepsin V precedes trafficking to and export across the PVM of proteins involved in pathogenicity and host cell remodelling. Here, we have functionally characterized the T. gondii aspartyl protease 5 (ASP5), a Golgi-resident protease that is phylogenetically related to Plasmepsin V. We show that deletion of ASP5 causes a significant loss in parasite fitness in vitro and an altered virulence in vivo. Furthermore, we reveal that ASP5 is necessary for the cleavage of GRA16, GRA19 and GRA20 at the PEXEL-like motif. In the absence of ASP5, the intravacuolar nanotubular network disappears and several GRAs fail to localize to the PVM, while GRA16 and GRA24, both known to be targeted to the host cell nucleus, are retained within the vacuolar space. Additionally, hypermigration of dendritic cells and bradyzoite cyst wall formation are impaired, critically impacting on parasite dissemination and persistence. Overall, the absence of ASP5 dramatically compromises the parasite's ability to modulate host signalling pathways and immune responses.
Toxoplasma gondii, a significant public health risk, is able to infect almost all warm-blooded animals including humans, and it results in economic losses in production animals. In the last three years, a large number of vaccination experiments have been performed to control T. gondii infection, with the target of limiting the acute infection and reducing or eliminating tissue cysts in the intermediate hosts. In this paper, we summarize the latest results of the veterinary vaccines against T. gondii infection since 2013. Immunization with live-attenuated whole organisms of non-reverting mutants has been shown to induce remarkably potent immune responses associated with control of acute and chronic toxoplasmosis. The non-cyst-forming mutants are promising new tools for the development of veterinary vaccines against T. gondii infection.
The aim of the present work was to determine whether Dermacentor reticulatus (Fabricius), tick species common in eastern Poland could be infected with Toxoplasma gondii (Nicolle et Manceaux, 1908). A total of 664 unfed D. reticulatus ticks were collected from six localities of Lublin province (eastern Poland) within the framework of study for the presence of bacterial, viral and parasitological infections, with use of PCR and confirmed by sequencing analysis. The prevalence of T. gondii DNA of B1 gene in the total examined D. reticulatus ticks was 3.2%. The infection varies greatly depending on the locality of tick collection (0-16.7%). Preliminary identification of clonal type (I or II/III) by Restriction Fragments Length Polymorphism PCR (RFLP-PCR) with use B1 gene showed that all isolates of T. gondii belonged to type I. RFLP analysis using genetic markers SAG1, 5'-SAG2, 3'-SAG2, SAG3, and GRA6 on B1-positive samples showed that only a single isolate proved to be type I with all five markers, another type was classified to type I according to four markers, while another five isolates had only type I alleles at GRA6, which cannot be regarded as type I confirmation. It must be pointed out that the used DNA isolation method by boiling with ammonium hydroxide enables to receive the total DNA from ticks, but may be not quite suitable for genotyping. In conclusion, this study indicates that besides Ixodes ricinus (Linnaeus), also D. reticulatus should be considered as a potential vector of T. gondii. The presumption of tick-borne transmission as an alternative pathway of disease spreading could well explain the high prevalence of toxoplasmosis among the herbivorous mammals and birds. However, this hypothesis needs verification by further experimental and ecological studies.
The interplay between the Apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii and its host has been largely studied. However, molecular changes at the metabolic level in the host central nervous system and pathogenesis-associated metabolites during brain infection are largely unexplored. We used a global metabolomics strategy to identify differentially regulated metabolites and affected metabolic pathways in BALB/c mice during infection with T. gondii Pru strain at 7, 14 and 21 days post-infection (DPI). The non-targeted Liquid Chromatography-Mass Spectrometry (LC-MS) metabolomics analysis detected approximately 2,755 retention time-exact mass pairs, of which more than 60 had significantly differential profiles at different stages of infection. These include amino acids, organic acids, carbohydrates, fatty acids, and vitamins. The biological significance of these metabolites is discussed. Principal Component Analysis and Orthogonal Partial Least Square-Discriminant Analysis showed the metabolites' profile to change over time with the most significant changes occurring at 14 DPI. Correlated metabolic pathway imbalances were observed in carbohydrate metabolism, lipid metabolism, energetic metabolism and fatty acid oxidation. Eight metabolites correlated with the physical recovery from infection-caused illness were identified. These findings indicate that global metabolomics adopted in this study is a sensitive approach for detecting metabolic alterations in T. gondii-infected mice and generated a comparative metabolic profile of brain tissue distinguishing infected from non-infected host.