bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2023‒04‒23
fourteen papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar
BITS Pilani

  1. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2023 Apr 25. 120(17): e2210929120
      Coenzyme A (CoA) biosynthesis is an excellent target for antimalarial intervention. While most studies have focused on the use of CoA to produce acetyl-CoA in the apicoplast and the cytosol of malaria parasites, mitochondrial acetyl-CoA production is less well understood. In the current study, we performed metabolite-labeling experiments to measure endogenous metabolites in Plasmodium falciparum lines with genetic deletions affecting mitochondrial dehydrogenase activity. Our results show that the mitochondrion is required for cellular acetyl-CoA biosynthesis and identify a synthetic lethal relationship between the two main ketoacid dehydrogenase enzymes. The activity of these enzymes is dependent on the lipoate attachment enzyme LipL2, which is essential for parasite survival solely based on its role in supporting acetyl-CoA metabolism. We also find that acetyl-CoA produced in the mitochondrion is essential for the acetylation of histones and other proteins outside of the mitochondrion. Taken together, our results demonstrate that the mitochondrion is required for cellular acetyl-CoA metabolism and protein acetylation essential for parasite survival.
    Keywords:  acetyl-CoA; acetylation; lipoic acid; malaria parasites; mitochondrion
  2. Microb Pathog. 2023 Apr 18. pii: S0882-4010(23)00153-5. [Epub ahead of print] 106120
      Toxoplasma gondii is a highly prevalent protozoan that infects a broad spectrum of warm-blooded animals. Profilin is a critical protein that plays a role in the movement and invasion of T. gondii. In the current study, we assessed how profilin stimulates inflammasomes and how it induces transcription and secretion of IL-1β. For this purpose, we assessed the level of TLR 2, 4, 5, and 9 expressions in a THP-1 cell line treated with profilin from T. gondii (TgP). In addition, we analyzed the expression levels of various inflammasomes, as well as IL-1β, and IL-18 in THP-1 cells treated with the NLRP3 inhibitor MCC950. TgP significantly increased the expression of TLR5 but the expression of TLR2, 4, and 9 was not significantly increased. In addition, TgP did not significantly increase the level of inflammasomes after 5 h. Treatment with MCC950 significantly reduced NLRP3 and IL-1β on both transcription and protein levels. Although the transcription level of NLRP3 was reduced 5 h after treatment with TgP, western blot analysis showed an increase in NLRP3. The western blot and ELISA analysis also showed that TgP increased both pro- and mature IL-1β. In summary, our study showed that NLRP3 most probably plays a pivotal role in the expression and production levels of IL-1β during the interaction between TgP and macrophages.
    Keywords:  IL-1β; NLRP3; Profilin; THP-1; TLR; Toxoplasma gondii
  3. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 ;13 1145824
      Background: Toxoplasmosis caused by Toxoplasma gondii is a globally distributed zoonosis. Most infections appear asymptomatic in immunocompetent individuals, but toxoplasmosis can be fatal in fetuses and immunocompromised adults. There is an urgent need to research and develop effective and low-toxicity anti-T. gondii drugs because of some defects in current clinical anti-T. gondii drugs, such as limited efficacy, serious side effects and drug resistance.Methods: In this study, 152 autophagy related compounds were evaluated as anti-T. gondii drugs. The activity of β-galactosidase assay based on luminescence was used to determine the inhibitory effect on parasite growth. At the same time, MTS assay was used to further detect the effects of compounds with over 60% inhibition rate on host cell viability. The invasion, intracellular proliferation, egress and gliding abilities of T. gondii were tested to assess the inhibitory effect of the chosen drugs on the distinct steps of the T. gondii lysis cycle.
    Results: The results showed that a total of 38 compounds inhibited parasite growth by more than 60%. After excluding the compounds affecting host cell activity, CGI-1746 and JH-II-127 were considered for drug reuse and further characterized. Both CGI-1746 and JH-II-127 inhibited tachyzoite growth by 60%, with IC50 values of 14.58 ± 1.52 and 5.88 ± 0.23 μM, respectively. TD50 values were 154.20 ± 20.15 and 76.39 ± 14.32 μM, respectively. Further research found that these two compounds significantly inhibited the intracellular proliferation of tachyzoites. Summarize the results, we demonstrated that CGI-1746 inhibited the invasion, egress and especially the gliding abilities of parasites, which is essential for the successful invasion of host cells, while JH-II-127 did not affect the invasion and gliding ability, but seriously damaged the morphology of mitochondria which may be related to the damage of mitochondrial electron transport chain.
    Discussion: Taken together, these findings suggest that both CGI-1746 and JH-II-127 could be potentially repurposed as anti-T. gondii drugs, lays the groundwork for future therapeutic strategies.
    Keywords:  CGI-1746; JH-II-127; Toxoplasma gondii; in vitro; infection
  4. Nat Commun. 2023 04 15. 14(1): 2167
      Apicomplexan parasites have immense impacts on humanity, but their basic cellular processes are often poorly understood. Where endocytosis occurs in these cells, how conserved this process is with other eukaryotes, and what the functions of endocytosis are across this phylum are major unanswered questions. Using the apicomplexan model Toxoplasma, we identified the molecular composition and behavior of unusual, fixed endocytic structures. Here, stable complexes of endocytic proteins differ markedly from the dynamic assembly/disassembly of these machineries in other eukaryotes. We identify that these endocytic structures correspond to the 'micropore' that has been observed throughout the Apicomplexa. Moreover, conserved molecular adaptation of this structure is seen in apicomplexans including the kelch-domain protein K13 that is central to malarial drug-resistance. We determine that a dominant function of endocytosis in Toxoplasma is plasma membrane homeostasis, rather than parasite nutrition, and that these specialized endocytic structures originated early in infrakingdom Alveolata likely in response to the complex cell pellicle that defines this medically and ecologically important ancient eukaryotic lineage.
  5. Front Cell Infect Microbiol. 2023 ;13 1078984
      Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii), a ubiquitous and obligatory intracellular protozoa, not only alters peripheral immune status, but crosses the blood-brain barrier to trigger brain parenchymal injury and central neuroinflammation to establish latent cerebral infection in humans and other vertebrates. Recent findings underscore the strong correlation between alterations in the peripheral and central immune environment and mood disorders. Th17 and Th1 cells are important pro-inflammatory cells that can drive the pathology of mood disorders by promoting neuroinflammation. As opposed to Th17 and Th1, regulatory T cells have inhibitory inflammatory and neuroprotective functions that can ameliorate mood disorders. T. gondii induces neuroinflammation, which can be mediated by CD4+ T cells (such as Tregs, Th17, Th1, and Th2). Though the pathophysiology and treatment of mood disorder have been currently studied, emerging evidence points to unique role of CD4+ T cells in mood disorder, especially those caused by T. gondii infection. In this review, we explore some recent studies that extend our understanding of the relationship between mood disorders and T. gondii.
    Keywords:  CD4+ T cell; Th17; Toxoplasma gondii; mood disorders; regulatory T cells
  6. Front Microbiol. 2023 ;14 1144453
      The long term in vitro culture of Plasmodium falciparum was successfully established by Trager and Jensen in 1976; however it largely remains unachieved for P. vivax. The major obstacle associated with Plasmodium vivax in vitro culture is its predilection for invading younger reticulocytes and the complex remodelling of invaded reticulocytes. There are many factors under exploration for this predilection and host-parasite interactions between merozoites and invaded reticulocytes. These include various factors related to parasite, host and environment such as compromised reticulocyte osmotic stability after invasion, abundance of iron in the reticulocytes which makes them favourable for P. vivax growth and propagation and role of a hypoxic environment in P. vivax in vitro growth. P. vivax blood stage transfection represents another major hurdle towards understanding this parasite's complex biology. Efforts in making this parasite amenable for molecular investigation by genetic modification are limited. Newer approaches in sustaining a longer in vitro culture and thereby help advancing transfection technologies in P. vivax are urgently needed that can be explored to understand the unique biology of this parasite.
    Keywords:  Plasmodium vivax; in vitro culture; malaria; reticulocytes; transfection
  7. Nat Microbiol. 2023 Apr 20.
      Successful infection strategies must balance pathogen amplification and persistence. In the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii this is accomplished through differentiation into dedicated cyst-forming chronic stages that avoid clearance by the host immune system. The transcription factor BFD1 is both necessary and sufficient for stage conversion; however, its regulation is not understood. In this study we examine five factors that are transcriptionally activated by BFD1. One of these is a cytosolic RNA-binding protein of the CCCH-type zinc-finger family, which we name bradyzoite formation deficient 2 (BFD2). Parasites lacking BFD2 fail to induce BFD1 and are consequently unable to fully differentiate in culture or in mice. BFD2 interacts with the BFD1 transcript under stress, and deletion of BFD2 reduces BFD1 protein levels but not messenger RNA abundance. The reciprocal effects on BFD2 transcription and BFD1 translation outline a positive feedback loop that enforces the chronic-stage gene-expression programme. Thus, our findings help explain how parasites both initiate and commit to chronic differentiation. This work provides new mechanistic insight into the regulation of T. gondii persistence, and can be exploited in the design of strategies to prevent and treat these key reservoirs of human infection.
  8. PLoS Pathog. 2023 Apr 17. 19(4): e1011347
      Toxoplasma gondii establishes a long-lived latent infection in the central nervous system (CNS) of its hosts. Reactivation in immunocompromised individuals can lead to life threatening disease. Latent infection is driven by the ability of the parasite to convert from the acute-stage tachyzoite to the latent-stage bradyzoite which resides in long-lived intracellular cysts. While much work has focused on the parasitic factors that drive cyst development, the host factors that influence encystment are not well defined. Here we show that a polymorphic secreted parasite kinase (ROP16), that phosphorylates host cell proteins, mediates efficient encystment of T. gondii in a stress-induced model of encystment and primary neuronal cell cultures (PNCs) in a strain-specific manner. Using short-hairpin RNA (shRNA) knockdowns in human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs) and PNCs from transgenic mice, we determined that ROP16's cyst enhancing abilities are mediated, in part, by phosphorylation-and therefore activation-of the host cell transcription factor STAT6. To test the role of STAT6 in vivo, we infected wild-type (WT) and STAT6KO mice, finding that, compared to WT mice, STAT6KO mice have a decrease in CNS cyst burden but not overall parasite burden or dissemination to the CNS. Finally, we found a similar ROP16-dependent encystment defect in human pluripotent stem cell-derived neurons. Together, these findings identify a host cell factor (STAT6) that T. gondii manipulates in a strain-specific manner to generate a favorable encystment environment.
  9. J Mol Diagn. 2023 Apr 15. pii: S1525-1578(23)00073-9. [Epub ahead of print]
      Accurate tools for Toxoplasma gondii detection and quantification can be valuable for the early and effective management of toxoplasmosis. Droplet digital PCR (ddPCR) is a next-generation end-point PCR technique with high performance. The objective of the study was to evaluate the performance of ddPCR for the detection and absolute quantification of T. gondii. From January 2019 to October 2020, DNA samples collected at the Laboratory of Parasitology and Mycology of Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital in Paris were retrospectively analysed by ddPCR and qPCR. To detect T. gondii with the best sensitivity possible, the REP-529 multicopy target was used. For absolute quantification of T. gondii, a specific single copy target of alpha-tubulin was designed. T. gondii detection by ddPCR and qPCR was strongly correlated (R2=0.93), with a total concordance of 96.7% (145/150). Quantification of T. gondii using ddPCR was successful for 15/35 samples showing a parasite load ≥170 copies/mL of DNA eluate using alpha-tubulin target. The qPCR REP-529 quantification based on a standard curve was approximate and dependent on the strain genotype, which led to an estimate of parasite copy number 14- to 160-fold superior to the ddPCR result. In Total, ddPCR is an effective molecular method for T. gondii detection that shows equivalent performance to qPCR. For robust T. gondii quantification, ddPCR is clearly more accurate than semiquantitative qPCR methods.
  10. Front Microbiol. 2023 ;14 1141952
      The antiparasitic drug halofuginone is important for controlling apicomplexan parasites. However, the occurrence of halofuginone resistance is a major obstacle for it to the treatment of apicomplexan parasites. Current studies have identified the molecular marker and drug resistance mechanisms of halofuginone in Plasmodium falciparum. In this study, we tried to use transcriptomic data to explore resistance mechanisms of halofuginone in apicomplexan parasites of the genus Eimeria (Apicomplexa: Eimeriidae). After halofuginone treatment of E. tenella parasites, transcriptome analysis was performed using samples derived from both resistant and sensitive strains. In the sensitive group, DEGs associated with enzymes were significantly downregulated, whereas the DNA damaging process was upregulated after halofuginone treatment, revealing the mechanism of halofuginone-induced parasite death. In addition, 1,325 differentially expressed genes (DEGs) were detected between halofuginone resistant and sensitive strains, and the DEGs related to translation were significantly downregulated after halofuginone induction. Overall, our results provide a gene expression profile for further studies on the mechanism of halofuginone resistance in E. tenella.
    Keywords:  DEG; Eimeria tenella; halofuginone; resistance; transcriptome analysis
  11. Nat Commun. 2023 04 19. 14(1): 2247
      ATP citrate lyase (ACLY) is the predominant nucleocytosolic source of acetyl-CoA and is aberrantly regulated in many diseases making it an attractive therapeutic target. Structural studies of ACLY reveal a central homotetrameric core citrate synthase homology (CSH) module flanked by acyl-CoA synthetase homology (ASH) domains, with ATP and citrate binding the ASH domain and CoA binding the ASH-CSH interface to produce acetyl-CoA and oxaloacetate products. The specific catalytic role of the CSH module and an essential D1026A residue contained within it has been a matter of debate. Here, we report biochemical and structural analysis of an ACLY-D1026A mutant demonstrating that this mutant traps a (3S)-citryl-CoA intermediate in the ASH domain in a configuration that is incompatible with the formation of acetyl-CoA, is able to convert acetyl-CoA and OAA to (3S)-citryl-CoA in the ASH domain, and can load CoA and unload acetyl-CoA in the CSH module. Together, this data support an allosteric role for the CSH module in ACLY catalysis.
  12. Cell Rep. 2023 Apr 15. pii: S2211-1247(23)00407-2. [Epub ahead of print]42(4): 112396
      Emerging evidence indicates that metabolic dysregulation drives prostate cancer (PCa) progression and metastasis. AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK) is a master regulator of metabolism, although its role in PCa remains unclear. Here, we show that genetic and pharmacological activation of AMPK provides a protective effect on PCa progression in vivo. We show that AMPK activation induces PGC1α expression, leading to catabolic metabolic reprogramming of PCa cells. This catabolic state is characterized by increased mitochondrial gene expression, increased fatty acid oxidation, decreased lipogenic potential, decreased cell proliferation, and decreased cell invasiveness. Together, these changes inhibit PCa disease progression. Additionally, we identify a gene network involved in cell cycle regulation that is inhibited by AMPK activation. Strikingly, we show a correlation between this gene network and PGC1α gene expression in human PCa. Taken together, our findings support the use of AMPK activators for clinical treatment of PCa to improve patient outcome.
    Keywords:  AMPK; CP: Cancer; CP: Metabolism; PGC1α; cell cycle regulation; fatty acid oxidation; high-fat diet; lipogenesis; metabolism; metastasis; mitochondria; prostate cancer
  13. Trends Parasitol. 2023 Apr 13. pii: S1471-4922(23)00074-0. [Epub ahead of print]
      Malaria is a febrile illness caused by species of the protozoan parasite Plasmodium and is characterized by recursive infections of erythrocytes, leading to clinical symptoms and pathology. In mammals, Plasmodium parasites undergo a compulsory intrahepatic development stage before infecting erythrocytes. Liver-stage parasites have a metabolic configuration to facilitate the replication of several thousand daughter parasites. Their metabolism is of interest to identify cellular pathways essential for liver infection, to kill the parasite before onset of the disease. In this review, we summarize the current knowledge on nutrient acquisition and biosynthesis by liver-stage parasites mostly generated in murine malaria models, gaps in knowledge, and challenges to create a holistic view of the development and deficiencies in this field.
    Keywords:  Plasmodium; hepatocyte; malaria; metabolism
  14. J Biol Chem. 2023 Apr 13. pii: S0021-9258(23)01740-4. [Epub ahead of print] 104712
      Autophagy is a key process in eukaryotes to maintain cellular homeostasis by delivering cellular components to lysosomes/vacuoles for degradation and reuse of the resulting metabolites. Membrane rearrangements and trafficking events are mediated by the core machinery of autophagy-related (Atg) proteins, which carry out a variety of functions. How Atg9, a lipid scramblase and the only conserved transmembrane protein within this core Atg machinery, is trafficked during autophagy remained largely unclear. Here, we addressed this question in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and found that retromer complex and dynamin Vps1 mutants alter Atg9 subcellular distribution and severely impair the autophagic flux by affecting two separate autophagy steps. We provide evidence that Vps1 interacts with Atg9 at Atg9 reservoirs. In the absence of Vps1, Atg9 fails to reach the sites of autophagosome formation, and this results in an autophagy defect. The function of Vps1 in autophagy requires its GTPase activity. Moreover, Vps1 point mutants associated with human diseases such as microcytic anemia and Charcot-Marie-Tooth are unable to sustain autophagy and affect Atg9 trafficking. Together, our data provide novel insights on the role of dynamins in Atg9 trafficking and suggest that a defect in this autophagy step could contribute to severe human pathologies.
    Keywords:  Atg9; Autophagy; PAS; SNX; Vps1; autophagosome; dynamin; phagophore; retromer; sorting nexin