bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2023‒02‒05
thirteen papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar
BITS Pilani

  1. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 22. pii: 2023.01.21.525043. [Epub ahead of print]
      Microbial pathogens use proteases for their infections, such as digestion of proteins for nutrients and activation of their virulence factors. As an obligate intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii must invade host cells to establish its intracellular propagation. To facilitate invasion, the parasites secrete invasion effectors from microneme and rhoptry, two unique organelles in apicomplexans. Previous work has shown that some micronemal invasion effectors experience a series of proteolytic cleavages within the parasite's secretion pathway for maturation, such as the aspartyl protease (TgASP3) and the cathepsin L-like protease (TgCPL), localized within the post-Golgi compartment (1) and the endolysosomal system (2), respectively. Furthermore, it has been shown that the precise maturation of micronemal effectors is critical for Toxoplasma invasion and egress (1). Here, we show that an endosome-like compartment (ELC)-residing cathepsin C-like protease (TgCPC1) mediates the final trimming of some micronemal effectors, and its loss further results in defects in the steps of invasion, egress, and migration throughout the parasite's lytic cycle. Notably, the deletion of TgCPC1 completely blocks the activation of subtilisin-like protease 1 (TgSUB1) in the parasites, which globally impairs the surface-trimming of many key micronemal invasion and egress effectors. Additionally, we found that TgCPC1 was not efficiently inhibited by the chemical inhibitor targeting its malarial ortholog, suggesting that these cathepsin C-like orthologs are structurally different within the apicomplexan phylum. Taken together, our findings identify a novel function of TgCPC1 in the processing of micronemal proteins within the secretory pathway of Toxoplasma parasites and expand the understanding of the roles of cathepsin C protease.IMPORTANCE: Toxoplasma gondii is a microbial pathogen that is well adapted for disseminating infections. It can infect virtually all warm-blooded animals. Approximately one-third of the human population carries toxoplasmosis. During infection, the parasites sequentially secrete protein effectors from the microneme, rhoptry, and dense granule, three organelles exclusively found in apicomplexan parasites, to help establish their lytic cycle. Proteolytic cleavage of these secretory proteins is required for the parasite's optimal function. Previous work has revealed that two proteases residing within the parasite's secretory pathway cleave micronemal and rhoptry proteins, which mediate parasite invasion and egress. Here, we demonstrate that a cathepsin C-like protease (TgCPC1) is involved in processing several invasion and egress effectors. The genetic deletion of TgCPC1 prevented the complete maturation of some effectors in the parasites. Strikingly, the deletion led to a full inactivation of one surface-anchored protease, which globally impaired the trimming of some key micronemal proteins before secretion. Therefore, this finding represents a novel post-translational mechanism for the processing of virulence factors within microbial pathogens.
  2. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 12. pii: 2023.01.11.523553. [Epub ahead of print]
      Apicomplexan parasites use Ca 2+ -regulated exocytosis to secrete essential virulence factors from specialized organelles called micronemes. Ca 2+ -dependent protein kinases (CDPKs) are required for microneme exocytosis; however, the molecular events that regulate trafficking and fusion of micronemes with the plasma membrane remain unresolved. Here, we combine sub-minute resolution phosphoproteomics and bio-orthogonal labeling of kinase substrates in Toxoplasma gondii to identify 163 proteins phosphorylated in a CDPK1-dependent manner. In addition to known regulators of secretion, we identify uncharacterized targets with predicted functions across signaling, gene expression, trafficking, metabolism, and ion homeostasis. One of the CDPK1 targets is a putative HOOK activating adaptor. In other eukaryotes, HOOK homologs form the FHF complex with FTS and FHIP to activate dynein-mediated trafficking of endosomes along microtubules. We show the FHF complex is partially conserved in T. gondii , consisting of HOOK, an FTS homolog, and two parasite-specific proteins (TGGT1_306920 and TGGT1_316650). CDPK1 kinase activity and HOOK are required for the rapid apical trafficking of micronemes as parasites initiate motility. Moreover, parasites lacking HOOK or FTS display impaired microneme protein secretion, leading to a block in the invasion of host cells. Taken together, our work provides a comprehensive catalog of CDPK1 targets and reveals how vesicular trafficking has been tuned to support a parasitic lifestyle.
  3. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 09. pii: 2023.01.09.523261. [Epub ahead of print]
      Phosphoinositide metabolism defines the foundation of a major signaling pathway that is conserved throughout the eukaryotic kingdom. The 4-OH phosphorylated phosphoinositides such as phosphatidylinositol-4-phosphate (PtdIns4P) and phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate are particularly important molecules as these execute intrinsically essential activities required for the viability of all eukaryotic cells studied thus far. Using intracellular tachyzoites of the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii as model for assessing primordial roles for PtdIns4P signaling, we demonstrate the presence of PtdIns4P pools in Golgi/trans-Golgi (TGN) system and in post-TGN compartments of the parasite. Moreover, we show that deficits in PtdIns4P signaling result in structural perturbation of compartments that house dense granule cargo with accompanying deficits in dense granule exocytosis. Taken together, the data report a direct role for PtdIns4P in dense granule biogenesis and exocytosis. The data further indicate that the biogenic pathway for secretion-competent dense granule formation in T. gondii is more complex than simple budding of fully matured dense granules from the TGN.
  4. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 02. pii: 2023.01.01.521342. [Epub ahead of print]
      Toxoplasma gondii contains an essential single plastid organelle known as the apicoplast that is necessary for fatty acid, isoprenoid, and heme synthesis. Perturbations affecting apicoplast function leads to parasite death. To maintain a functional apicoplast, the parasite must execute two important cellular processes: accurate division of this single copy organelle into daughter parasites during cell division and trafficking of nuclear encoded apicoplast proteins (NEAT). In this study we demonstrate that F-actin and an unconventional myosin motor, TgMyoF, are important for both processes. Live cell imaging demonstrates that during division the apicoplast is highly dynamic, exhibiting branched, U-shaped and linear morphologies that are dependent on TgMyoF and actin. These dynamics appear to control apicoplast association with the centrosome and positioning of the centrosome at the apicoplast tips. Loss of apicoplast dynamics correlated with reduced apicoplast-centrosome association and ultimately apicoplast inheritance defects. In addition, we uncovered the role of TgMyoF and actin in NEAT protein trafficking. Vesicles containing the apicoplast protein APT1 were only observed during apicoplast division in control parasites, however loss of TgMyoF and actin lead to accumulation of vesicles in the cytosol, with only a small impact on vesicle movement suggesting that this actomyosin system is important for vesicle fusion with the apicoplast. Consequently, loss of TgMyoF resulted in reduced apicoplast length. This study has provided crucial new insight into mechanisms and timing of protein trafficking to the apicoplast and demonstrated how apicoplast-centrosome association, a key step in the apicoplast division cycle, is control by the actomyosin cytoskeleton.
  5. Vet Parasitol. 2023 Jan 22. pii: S0304-4017(23)00019-5. [Epub ahead of print]315 109888
      The apicoplast, which is the result of secondary endosymbiosis, is a distinctive subcellular organelle and a crucial therapeutic target for apicomplexan parasites. The majority of apicoplast-resident proteins are encoded by the nuclear genome and target the apicoplast via bipartite targeting signals consisting of a signal peptide and a transit peptide. The properties and functions of these peptides are poorly understood, which hinders the identification of apicoplast proteins and the study for plastid evolution. Here, the targeting signals of the recently discovered apicoplast tRNA thiouridylase TgMnmA of Toxoplasma gondii were analyzed. Our data using a reporter (the enhanced green fluorescent protein) fused with individual fragments containing various numbers of its N-terminal amino acids unequivocally revealed that the first 28 amino acids of TgMnmA functioned as a signal peptide for cellular secretion. The N-terminal 150 amino acids were sufficient to direct the fusion protein to the apicoplast, whereas its deletion caused the fusion protein to be localized to the mitochondrion. Our data further demonstrated that the apicoplast, rhoptry, and mitochondrion shared similar targeting signals, indicating that the apicoplast localization peptide was trans-organellar in function. In addition, the apicoplast localization peptide was important for the healthy proliferation of tachyzoites. In conclusion, the targeting signals of the nucleus-encoded apicoplast-targeted protein TgMnmA have been mapped out and the importance of this localization peptide has been elucidated in the current study.
    Keywords:  Apicoplast; Nucleus-encoded apicoplast-targeted protein; Signal peptide; TgMnmA; Toxoplasma gondii; Transit peptide
  6. mBio. 2023 Jan 30. e0325622
      Toxoplasma gondii secretes various virulence effector molecules into host cells to disrupt host interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-dependent immunity. Among these effectors, ROP18 directly phosphorylates and inactivates IFN-inducible GTPases, such as immunity-related GTPases (IRGs) and guanylate-binding proteins (GBPs), leading to the subversion of IFN-inducible GTPase-induced cell-autonomous immunity. The modes of action of ROP18 have been studied extensively; however, little is known about the molecular mechanisms by which ROP18 is produced in the parasite itself. Here, we report the role of T. gondii transcription factor IWS1 in ROP18 mRNA expression in the parasite. Compared with wild-type virulent type I T. gondii, IWS1-deficient parasites showed dramatically increased loading of IRGs and GBPs onto the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM). Moreover, IWS1-deficient parasites displayed decreased virulence in wild-type mice but retained normal virulence in mice lacking the IFN-γ receptor. Furthermore, IWS1-deficient parasites showed severely decreased ROP18 mRNA expression; however, tagged IWS1 did not directly bind with genomic regions of the ROP18 locus. Ectopic expression of ROP18 in IWS1-deficient parasites restored the decreased loading of effectors onto the PVM and in vivo virulence in wild-type mice. Taken together, these data demonstrate that T. gondii IWS1 indirectly regulates ROP18 mRNA expression to determine fitness in IFN-γ-activated host cells and mice. IMPORTANCE The parasite Toxoplasma gondii has a counterdefense system against interferon-γ (IFN-γ)-dependent host immunity which relies on the secretion of parasite effector proteins. ROP18 is one of the effector, which is released into host cells to inactivate IFN-γ-dependent anti-Toxoplasma host proteins. The mechanism by which Toxoplasma ROP18 subverts host immunity has been extensively analyzed, but how Toxoplasma produces this virulence factor remains unclear. Here, we show that Toxoplasma transcription factor IWS1 is important for ROP18 mRNA expression in the parasite. Loss of IWS1 from virulent Toxoplasma leads to dramatically decreased ROP18 mRNA expression, resulting in profoundly decreased virulence due to greater activity of IFN-γ-dependent host immune responses. Thus, Toxoplasma prepares the critical virulence factor ROP18 via an IWS1-dependent system to negate IFN-γ-dependent antiparasitic immunity and thus survive in the host.
    Keywords:  IFN-γ; IWS1; ROP18; Toxoplasma; interferons; parasitophorous vacuole; transcriptional regulation; virulence; virulence factors
  7. Nat Metab. 2023 Feb 02.
      The mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1 (mTORC1) controls cell growth in response to amino acid and glucose levels. However, how mTORC1 senses glucose availability to regulate various downstream signalling pathways remains largely elusive. Here we report that AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK)-mediated phosphorylation of WDR24, a core component of the GATOR2 complex, has a role in the glucose-sensing capability of mTORC1. Mechanistically, glucose deprivation activates AMPK, which directly phosphorylates WDR24 on S155, subsequently disrupting the integrity of the GATOR2 complex to suppress mTORC1 activation. Phosphomimetic Wdr24S155D knock-in mice exhibit early embryonic lethality and reduced mTORC1 activity. On the other hand, compared to wild-type littermates, phospho-deficient Wdr24S155A knock-in mice are more resistant to fasting and display elevated mTORC1 activity. Our findings reveal that AMPK-mediated phosphorylation of WDR24 modulates glucose-induced mTORC1 activation, thereby providing a rationale for targeting AMPK-WDR24 signalling to fine-tune mTORC1 activation as a potential therapeutic means to combat human diseases with aberrant activation of mTORC1 signalling including cancer.
  8. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 17. pii: 2023.01.16.524187. [Epub ahead of print]
      Sexual reproduction of Toxoplasma gondii , which is restricted to the small intestine of felids, is sparsely documented, due to ethical concerns surrounding the use of cats as model organisms. Chromatin modifiers dictate the developmental fate of the parasite during its multistage life cycle, but their targeting to stage-specific cistromes is poorly described 1 . In this study, we found that transcription factors AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2, expressed in tachyzoite stage that causes acute toxoplasmosis, can silence genes necessary for merozoites, a developmental stage critical for sexual commitment and transmission to the next host, including humans. Their conditional and simultaneous depletion leads to a drastic change in the transcriptional program, promoting a complete transition from tachyzoites to merozoites. Pre-gametes produced in vitro under these conditions are characterized by specific protein markers and undergo typical asexual endopolygenic division cycles. In tachyzoites, AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 bind DNA as heterodimers at merozoite promoters and recruit the epigenitors MORC and HDAC3 1 , which in turn restrict the accessibility of chromatin to the transcriptional machinery. Thus, the commitment to merogony stems from a profound epigenetic rewiring orchestrated by AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2. This effective in vitro culture of merozoites paves the way to explore Toxoplasma sexual reproduction without the need to infect kittens and has potential for the development of therapeutics to block parasite transmission.
  9. J Cell Sci. 2023 Jan 31. pii: jcs.260159. [Epub ahead of print]
      Intracellular pathogens exploit cellular resources through host cell manipulation. Within its nonfusogenic parasitophorous vacuole (PV), Toxoplasma targets host nutrient-filled organelles and sequesters them into the PV through deep invaginations of the PV membrane (PVM) that ultimately detach from this membrane. Some of these invaginations are generated by an intravacuolar network (IVN) of parasite-derived tubules attached to the PVM. Here, we examine the parasite usurpation of host ESCRT-III and Vps4 to create PVM buds and vesicles. CHMP4B associates with the PVM/IVN and dominant negative (DN) CHMP4B forms many long PVM invaginations containing CHMP4B filaments; the invaginations are shorter in IVN-deficient parasites, suggesting cooperation between IVN and ESCRT. In infected cells expressing Vps4-DN, enlarged intra-PV structures containing host endo-lysosomes accumulate, reflecting defects in PVM scission. Parasite mutants lacking TgGRA14 or TgGRA64 that interact with ESCRT have reduced CHMP4B-DN-induced PVM invaginations and intra-PV host organelles, with greater defects in a double-knockout, revealing the exploitation of ESCRT to scavenge host organelles by Toxoplasma.
    Keywords:  ESCRT; Mammalian organelle scavenging; Nutrient uptake; Parasitophorous vacuole membrane; Toxoplasma parasite
  10. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2023 Feb 02. 17(2): e0011105
      Toxoplasma gondii is the most successful parasite worldwide. It is of great interest to understand how T. gondii induce different immune responses in different hosts. In this study, we found that a peptide of T. gondii microneme protein MIC3 induced TNF-α production, NF-κB phosphorylation, iNOS transcription and Ly6C expression in mouse macrophage RAW264.7 cells. MyD88 inhibition, small interfering RNA against Tlr11 and CRISPR/Cas9-mediated knock-out of Tlr11 all reduced MIC3-induced TNF-α production, NF-κB phosphorylation, iNOS transcription and Ly6C expression. Additionally, we determined the location of MIC3 peptide in mouse macrophages using immunofluorescence. MIC3 could both adhere to the cell membrane of mouse macrophages and enter the cells. These results suggest that MIC3 trigger the immune responses in mouse macrophages via TLR11/MyD88/NF-κB pathway. It is known that human macrophages lacking TLR11. We predicted that the immune responses induced by MIC3 in human macrophages were significantly different from those in mouse macrophages. As expected, MIC3 peptide failed to induce TNF-α expression, iNOS expression and NF-κB phosphorylation in human THP-1 derived macrophages. MIC3 induces macrophage immune responses via TLR11. Intriguingly, the amino acid sequence of MIC3 is completely different from the well-known TLR11 ligand profilin, which generates a potent IL-12p40, TNF-α and IL-6 response. In marked contrast to profilin, MIC3 could not induce IL-12p40 expression in both mouse RAW264.7 cells and human THP-1 derived macrophages. Furthermore, the simulated tertiary structure of MIC3 peptide shows poor similarity with the crystal structure of profilin, suggesting that MIC3 might be a different ligand from profilin. These findings about MIC3 and TLR11 will provide us with important insights into the pathogenesis of toxoplasmosis and coevolution during host-parasite interaction.
  11. mBio. 2023 Feb 01. e0306422
      Cryptosporidium parvum is an enteric pathogen that invades epithelial cells in the intestine, where it resides at the apical surface in a unique epicellular location. Compared with those of related apicomplexan parasites, the processes of host cell attachment and invasion by C. parvum are poorly understood. The streamlined C. parvum genome contains numerous mucin-like glycoproteins, several of which have previously been shown to mediate cell attachment, although the majority are unstudied. Here, we identified the antigens recognized by monoclonal antibody (MAb) 1A5, which stains the apical end of sporozoites and mature merozoites. Immunoprecipitation with MAb 1A5 followed by mass spectrometry identified a heterodimer comprised of paralogous proteins which are related to additional orthologs in the genome of C. parvum and related species. Paralogous glycoproteins recognized by MAb 1A5 heterodimerize as a complex displayed on the parasite surface, and they also interact with lectins that suggest that they contain mucin-like, O-linked oligosaccharides. Although the gene encoding one of the paralogs was readily disrupted by CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing, its partner, which contains a mucin-like domain related to GP900, was refractory to deletion. Combined with the ability of MAb 1A5 to partially neutralize host cell attachment by sporozoites, these findings define a new family of secretory glycoproteins that participate in cell invasion by Cryptosporidium spp. IMPORTANCE Although Cryptosporidium is extremely efficient at penetrating mucus and invading epithelial cells in the intestine, the mechanism of cell attachment is poorly understood. To expand our understanding of this process, we characterized the antigens recognized by a monoclonal antibody that stains the apical end of invasive stages called sporozoites and merozoites. Our studies identify a family of glycoproteins that form heterodimers on the parasite cell surface to facilitate host cell attachment and entry. By further defining the role of mucin-like glycoproteins in host cell attachment, our studies may lead to strategies to disrupt cell adhesion and thereby decrease infection.
    Keywords:  adhesins; apicomplexan parasites; cell invasion; glycoprotein; lectin; mucin
  12. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 11. pii: 2023.01.10.523530. [Epub ahead of print]
      Glycerophospholipids including phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) and phosphatidylcholine (PC) are vital components of biological membranes. Trypanosomatid parasites of the genus Leishmania can acquire PE and PC via de novo synthesis and the uptake/remodeling of host lipids. In this study, we investigated the ethanolaminephosphate cytidyltransferase (EPCT) in Leishmania major , which is the causative agent for cutaneous leishmaniasis. EPCT is a key enzyme in the ethanolamine branch of the Kennedy pathway which is responsible for the de novo synthesis of PE. Our results demonstrate that L. major EPCT is a cytosolic protein capable of catalyzing the formation of CDP-ethanolamine from ethanolamine-phosphate and cytidine triphosphate. Genetic manipulation experiments indicate that EPCT is essential in both the promastigote and amastigote stages of L. major as the chromosomal null mutants cannot survive without the episomal expression of EPCT. This differs from our previous findings on the choline branch of the Kennedy pathway (responsible for PC synthesis) which is required only in promastigotes but not amastigotes. While episomal EPCT expression does not affect promastigote proliferation under normal conditions, it leads to reduced production of ethanolamine plasmalogen or plasmenylethanolamine, the dominant PE subtype in Leishmania . In addition, parasites with epsiomal EPCT exhibit heightened sensitivity to acidic pH and starvation stress, and significant reduction in virulence. In summary, our investigation demonstrates that proper regulation of EPCT expression is crucial for PE synthesis, stress response, and survival of Leishmania parasites throughout their life cycle.AUTHOR SUMMARY: In nature, Leishmania parasites alternate between fast replicating, extracellular promastigotes in sand fly gut and slow growing, intracellular amastigotes in macrophages. Previous studies suggest that promastigotes acquire most of their lipids via de novo synthesis whereas amastigotes rely on the uptake and remodeling of host lipids. Here we investigated the function of ethanolaminephosphate cytidyltransferase (EPCT) which catalyzes a key step in the de novo synthesis of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) in Leishmania major . Results showed that EPCT is indispensable for both promastigotes and amastigotes, indicating that de novo PE synthesis is still needed at certain capacity for the intracellular form of Leishmania parasites. In addition, elevated EPCT expression alters overall PE synthesis and compromises parasite’s tolerance to adverse conditions and is deleterious to the growth of intracellular amastigotes. These findings provide new insight into how Leishmania acquire essential phospholipids and how disturbance of lipid metabolism can impact parasite fitness.
  13. bioRxiv. 2023 Jan 12. pii: 2023.01.11.523703. [Epub ahead of print]
      Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe malaria and is exposed to various environmental and physiological stresses in the human host. Given that GCN5 plays a critical role in regulating stress responses in model organisms, we aimed to elucidate PfGCN5's function in stress responses in P. falciparum . With TetR-DOZI conditional knockdown (KD) system, we successfully down-regulate PfGCN5 and found that KD parasites became more sensitive to heat shock, low glucose starvation, and dihydroartemisinin (DHA), the active metabolite of all artemisinin (ART) compounds. Transcriptomic analysis via RNA-seq identified 300-400 genes involved in PfGCN5-dependent, general, and stress-specific responses with high levels of overlaps among three stress conditions. Notably, using ring-stage survival assay (RSA), we found that KD or inhibition of PfGCN5 could sensitize the ART-resistant parasites to the DHA treatment. All these indicate that PfGCN5 is pivotal in regulating general and stress-specific responses in malaria parasites, implicating PfGCN5 as a potential target for malaria intervention.IMPORTANCE: Malaria leads to about half a million deaths annually and these casualties were majorly caused by the infection of Plasmodium falciparum . This parasite strives to survive by defending against a variety of stress conditions, such as malaria cyclical fever (heat shock), starvation due to low blood sugar (glucose) levels (hypoglycemia), and drug treatment. Previous studies have revealed that P. falciparum has developed unique stress responses to different stresses including ART treatment, and ART-resistant parasites harbor elevated stress responses. In this study, we provide critical evidence on the role of PfGCN5, a histone modifier, and a chromatin coactivator, in regulating general and stress-specific responses in malaria parasites, indicating that PfGCN5 can be used as a potential target for anti-malaria intervention.