bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2023‒03‒19
four papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar
BITS Pilani

  1. Microbiol Spectr. 2023 Mar 15. e0504322
      Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite capable of infecting humans and animals. The organism has extraordinary metabolic resilience that allows it to establish parasitism in varied nutritional milieus of diverse host cells. Our earlier work has shown that, despite flexibility in the usage of glucose and glutamine as the major carbon precursors, the production of pyruvate by glycolytic enzymes is central to the parasite's growth. Pyruvate is metabolized in a number of subcellular compartments, including the mitochondrion, apicoplast, and cytosol. With the objective of examining the mechanism and importance of the mitochondrial pool of pyruvate imported from the cytosol, we identified the conserved mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) complex, consisting of two subunits, MPC1 and MPC2, in T. gondii. The two parasite proteins could complement a yeast mutant deficient in growth on leucine and valine. Genetic ablation of either one or both subunits reduced the parasite's growth, mimicking the deletion of branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase (BCKDH), which has been reported to convert pyruvate into acetyl-coenzyme A (CoA) in the mitochondrion. Metabolic labeling of the MPC mutants by isotopic glucose revealed impaired synthesis of acetyl-CoA, correlating with a global decrease in carbon flux through glycolysis and the tricarboxylic acid (TCA) cycle. Disruption of MPC proteins exerted only a modest effect on the parasite's virulence in mice, further highlighting its metabolic flexibility. In brief, our work reveals the modus operandi of pyruvate transport from the cytosol to the mitochondrion in the parasite, providing the missing link between glycolysis and the TCA cycle in T. gondii. IMPORTANCE T. gondii is a zoonotic parasite capable of infecting many warm-blooded organisms, including humans. Among others, a feature that allows it to parasitize multiple hosts is its exceptional metabolic plasticity. Although T. gondii can utilize different carbon sources, pyruvate homeostasis is critical for parasite growth. Pyruvate is produced primarily in the cytosol but metabolized in other organelles, such as the mitochondrion and apicoplast. The mechanism of import and physiological significance of pyruvate in these organelles remains unclear. Here, we identified the transporter of cytosol-derived pyruvate into the mitochondrion and studied its constituent subunits and their relevance. Our results show that cytosolic pyruvate is a major source of acetyl-CoA in the mitochondrion and that the mitochondrial pyruvate transporter is needed for optimal parasite growth. The mutants lacking the transporter are viable and virulent in a mouse model, underscoring the metabolic plasticity in the parasite's mitochondrion.
    Keywords:  TCA cycle; acetyl-CoA; branched-chain ketoacid dehydrogenase; glycolysis; mitochondrial pyruvate carrier
  2. PLoS Pathog. 2023 Mar 16. 19(3): e1011261
      Invasion of host cells by apicomplexan parasites such as Toxoplasma and Plasmodium spp requires the sequential secretion of the parasite apical organelles, the micronemes and the rhoptries. The claudin-like apicomplexan microneme protein (CLAMP) is a conserved protein that plays an essential role during invasion by Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites and in Plasmodium falciparum asexual blood stages. CLAMP is also expressed in Plasmodium sporozoites, the mosquito-transmitted forms of the malaria parasite, but its role in this stage is still unknown. CLAMP is essential for Plasmodium blood stage growth and is refractory to conventional gene deletion. To circumvent this obstacle and study the function of CLAMP in sporozoites, we used a conditional genome editing strategy based on the dimerisable Cre recombinase in the rodent malaria model parasite P. berghei. We successfully deleted clamp gene in P. berghei transmission stages and analyzed the functional consequences on sporozoite infectivity. In mosquitoes, sporozoite development and egress from oocysts was not affected in conditional mutants. However, invasion of the mosquito salivary glands was dramatically reduced upon deletion of clamp gene. In addition, CLAMP-deficient sporozoites were impaired in cell traversal and productive invasion of mammalian hepatocytes. This severe phenotype was associated with major defects in gliding motility and with reduced shedding of the sporozoite adhesin TRAP. Expansion microscopy revealed partial colocalization of CLAMP and TRAP in a subset of micronemes, and a distinct accumulation of CLAMP at the apical tip of sporozoites. Collectively, these results demonstrate that CLAMP is essential across invasive stages of the malaria parasite, and support a role of the protein upstream of host cell invasion, possibly by regulating the secretion or function of adhesins in Plasmodium sporozoites.
  3. mBio. 2023 Mar 14. e0006023
      Toxoplasma virulence depends on its ability to evade or survive the toxoplasmacidal mechanisms induced by interferon gamma (IFNγ). While many Toxoplasma genes involved in the evasion of the murine IFNγ response have been identified, genes required to survive the human IFNγ response are largely unknown. In this study, we used a genome-wide loss-of-function screen to identify Toxoplasma genes important for parasite fitness in IFNγ-stimulated primary human fibroblasts. We generated gene knockouts for the top six hits from the screen and confirmed their importance for parasite growth in IFNγ-stimulated human fibroblasts. Of these six genes, three have homology to GRA32, localize to dense granules, and coimmunoprecipitate with each other and GRA32, suggesting they might form a complex. Deletion of individual members of this complex leads to early parasite egress in IFNγ-stimulated cells. Thus, prevention of early egress is an important Toxoplasma fitness determinant in IFNγ-stimulated human cells. IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma infection causes serious complications in immunocompromised individuals and in the developing fetus. During infection, certain immune cells release a protein called interferon gamma that activates cells to destroy the parasite or inhibit its growth. While most Toxoplasma parasites are cleared by this immune response, some can survive by blocking or evading the IFNγ-induced restrictive environment. Many Toxoplasma genes that determine parasite survival in IFNγ-activated murine cells are known but parasite genes conferring fitness in IFNγ-activated human cells are largely unknown. Using a Toxoplasma adapted genome-wide loss-of-function screen, we identified many Toxoplasma genes that determine parasite fitness in IFNγ-activated human cells. The gene products of four top hits play a role in preventing early parasite egress in IFNγ-stimulated human cells. Understanding how IFNγ-stimulated human cells inhibit Toxoplasma growth and how Toxoplasma counteracts this, could lead to the development of novel therapeutics.
    Keywords:  CRISPR screen; Toxoplasma gondii; effector functions; host-pathogen interactions; interferons
  4. Sci Rep. 2023 Mar 13. 13(1): 4138
      2,3,7,8-Tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) is a persistent environmental contaminant that induces the progression of steatosis to steatohepatitis with fibrosis in mice. Furthermore, TCDD reprograms hepatic metabolism by redirecting glycolytic intermediates while inhibiting lipid metabolism. Here, we examined the effect of TCDD on hepatic acetyl-coenzyme A (acetyl-CoA) and β-hydroxybutyrate levels as well as protein acetylation and β-hydroxybutyrylation. Acetyl-CoA is not only a central metabolite in multiple anabolic and catabolic pathways, but also a substrate used for posttranslational modification of proteins and a surrogate indicator of cellular energy status. Targeted metabolomic analysis revealed a dose-dependent decrease in hepatic acetyl-CoA levels coincident with the phosphorylation of pyruvate dehydrogenase (E1), and the induction of pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 4 and pyruvate dehydrogenase phosphatase, while repressing ATP citrate lyase and short-chain acyl-CoA synthetase gene expression. In addition, TCDD dose-dependently reduced the levels of hepatic β-hydroxybutyrate and repressed ketone body biosynthesis gene expression. Moreover, levels of total hepatic protein acetylation and β-hydroxybutyrylation were reduced. AMPK phosphorylation was induced consistent with acetyl-CoA serving as a cellular energy status surrogate, yet subsequent targets associated with re-establishing energy homeostasis were not activated. Collectively, TCDD reduced hepatic acetyl-CoA and β-hydroxybutyrate levels eliciting starvation-like conditions despite normal levels of food intake.