Many members of the phylum of Apicomplexa have adopted an obligate intracellular life style and critically depend on active invasion and egress from the infected cells to complete their lytic cycle. Toxoplasma gondii belongs to the coccidian subgroup of the Apicomplexa, and as such, the invasive tachyzoite contains an organelle termed the conoid at its extreme apex. This motile organelle consists of a unique polymer of tubulin fibres and protrudes in both gliding and invading parasites. The class XIV myosin A, which is conserved across the Apicomplexa phylum, is known to critically contribute to motility, invasion and egress from infected cells. The MyoA-glideosome is anchored to the inner membrane complex (IMC) and is assumed to translocate the components of the circular junction secreted by the micronemes and rhoptries, to the rear of the parasite. Here we comprehensively characterise the class XIV myosin H (MyoH) and its associated light chains. We show that the 3 alpha-tubulin suppressor domains, located in MyoH tail, are necessary to anchor this motor to the conoid. Despite the presence of an intact MyoA-glideosome, conditional disruption of TgMyoH severely compromises parasite motility, invasion and egress from infected cells. We demonstrate that MyoH is necessary for the translocation of the circular junction from the tip of the parasite, where secretory organelles exocytosis occurs, to the apical position where the IMC starts. This study attributes for the first time a direct function of the conoid in motility and invasion, and establishes the indispensable role of MyoH in initiating the first step of motility along this unique organelle, which is subsequently relayed by MyoA to enact effective gliding and invasion.
Calcium dependent protein kinases are expanded in apicomplexan parasites, especially in T. gondii where 14 separate genes encoding these enzymes are found. Although previous studies have shown a role for several CDPKs in controlling invasion, egress, and cell division in T. gondii, the role of most of these genes is unexplored. Here we developed a more efficient method for gene disruption using CRISRP/Cas9 that was modified to completely delete large, multi-exonic genes from the genome and to allow serial replacement by recycling of the selectable marker using Cre-loxP. Using this system we generated a total of 24 mutants in type 1 and 2 genetic backgrounds to ascertain the function of non-canonical CPDKs. Remarkably, although we were able to confirm the essentiality of CDPK1 and CDPK7, the majority of CDPKs had no discernible phenotype for growth in vitro or infection in the mouse model. The exception to this was CDPK6, loss of which lead to reduced plaquing, fitness defect in a competition assay, and reduced tissue cysts formation in chronically infected mice. Our findings highlight the utility of CRISPR/cas9 for rapid serial gene deletion, and also suggest that additional models are needed to reveal the function of many genes in T. gondii.
Protozoan infections are a serious global health problem. Natural killer (NK) cells and cytolytic T lymphocytes (CTLs) eliminate pathogen-infected cells by releasing cytolytic granule contents-granzyme (Gzm) proteases and the pore-forming perforin (PFN)-into the infected cell. However, these cytotoxic molecules do not kill intracellular parasites. CD8+ CTLs protect against parasite infections in mice primarily by secreting interferon (IFN)-γ. However, human, but not rodent, cytotoxic granules contain the antimicrobial peptide granulysin (GNLY), which selectively destroys cholesterol-poor microbial membranes, and GNLY, PFN and Gzms rapidly kill intracellular bacteria. Here we show that GNLY delivers Gzms into three protozoan parasites (Trypanosoma cruzi, Toxoplasma gondii and Leishmania major), in which the Gzms generate superoxide and inactivate oxidative defense enzymes to kill the parasite. PFN delivers GNLY and Gzms into infected cells, and GNLY then delivers Gzms to the intracellular parasites. Killer cell-mediated parasite death, which we term 'microbe-programmed cell death' or 'microptosis', is caspase independent but resembles mammalian apoptosis, causing mitochondrial swelling, transmembrane potential dissipation, membrane blebbing, phosphatidylserine exposure, DNA damage and chromatin condensation. GNLY-transgenic mice are protected against infection by T. cruzi and T. gondii, and survive infections that are lethal to wild-type mice. Thus, GNLY-, PFN- and Gzm-mediated elimination of intracellular protozoan parasites is an unappreciated immune defense mechanism.
Toxoplasma gondii is among the most prevalent parasites worldwide, infecting many wild and domestic animals and causing zoonotic infections in humans. T. gondii differs substantially in its broad distribution from closely related parasites that typically have narrow, specialized host ranges. To elucidate the genetic basis for these differences, we compared the genomes of 62 globally distributed T. gondii isolates to several closely related coccidian parasites. Our findings reveal that tandem amplification and diversification of secretory pathogenesis determinants is the primary feature that distinguishes the closely related genomes of these biologically diverse parasites. We further show that the unusual population structure of T. gondii is characterized by clade-specific inheritance of large conserved haploblocks that are significantly enriched in tandemly clustered secretory pathogenesis determinants. The shared inheritance of these conserved haploblocks, which show a different ancestry than the genome as a whole, may thus influence transmission, host range and pathogenicity.
Toxoplasma gondii infection induces a strong and long-lasting immune response that is able to prevent most reinfections but allows tissue cysts. Irradiated, sterilized T. gondii tachyzoites are an interesting vaccine, and they induce immunity that is similar to infection, but without cysts. In this study, we evaluated the cellular immune response in the blood and spleen of mice immunized with this preparation by mouth (v.o.) or intraperitoneally (i.p.) and analyzed the protection after challenge with viable parasites. BALB/c mice were immunized with three i.p. or v.o. doses of irradiated T. gondii tachyzoites. Oral challenge with ten cysts of the ME-49 or VEG strain at 90 days after the last dose resulted in high levels of protection with low parasite burden in the immunized animals. There were higher levels of specific IgG, IgA and IgM antibodies in the serum, and the i.p. immunized mice had higher levels of the high-affinity IgG and IgM antibodies than the orally immunized mice, which had more high-affinity IgA antibodies. B cells (CD19+), plasma cells (CD138+) and the CD4+ and CD8+ T cell populations were increased in both the blood and spleen. Cells from the spleen of the i.p. immunized mice also showed antigen-induced production of interleukin-10 (IL-10), interferon gamma (IFN-γ) and interleukin 4 (IL-4). The CD4+ T cells, B cells and likely CD8+ T cells from the spleens of the i.p. immunized mice proliferated with a specific antigen. The protection was correlated with the spleen and blood CD8+ T cell, high-affinity IgG and IgM and antigen-induced IL-10 and IL-4 production. Immunization with irradiated T. gondii tachyzoites induces an immune response that is mediated by B cells and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, with increased humoral and cellular immune responses that are necessary for host protection after infection. The vaccine is similar to natural infection, but free of tissue cysts; this immunity restrains infection at challenge and can be an attractive and efficient model for vaccine development in toxoplasmosis.
B lymphocytes; CD4+ T lymphocytes; CD8+ T lymphocytes; Ionizing radiation; Toxoplasma gondii; Vaccine
3University of Georgia, United States; email@example.com.
Toxoplasma gondii is a protist parasite of warm-blooded animals that causes disease by proliferating intracellularly in muscle and the central nervous system. Previous studies showed that a prolyl 4-hydroxylase related to animal HIFα prolyl hydroxylases is required for optimal parasite proliferation, especially at low O2. We also observed that Pro154 of Skp1, a subunit of the Skp1/Cullin-1/F-box protein (SCF)-class of E3-ubiquitin ligases, is a natural substrate of this enzyme. In an unrelated protist, Dictyostelium discoideum, Skp1 hydroxyproline is modified by 5 sugars via the action of three glycosyltransferases, Gnt1, PgtA and AgtA, which are required for optimal O2-dependent development. We show here that TgSkp1 hydroxyproline is modified by a similar pentasaccharide, based on mass spectrometry, and that assembly of the first three sugars is dependent on Toxoplasma homologs of Gnt1 and PgtA. Reconstitution of the glycosyltransferase reactions in extracts with radioactive sugar nucleotide substrates and appropriate Skp1 glycoforms, followed by chromatographic analysis of acid hydrolysates of the reaction products, confirmed the predicted sugar identities as GlcNAc, Gal and Fuc. Disruptions of gnt1 or pgtA resulted in decreased parasite growth. Off target effects were excluded based on restoration of the normal glycan chain and growth upon genetic complementation. By analogy to Dictyostelium Skp1, the mechanism may involve regulation of assembly of the SCF complex. Understanding the mechanism of Toxoplasma Skp1 glycosylation is expected to help develop it as a drug target for control of the pathogen, as the glycosyltransferases are absent from mammalian hosts.