bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2023‒06‒25
ten papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar
BITS Pilani

  1. mBio. 2023 Jun 23. e0357322
      The protozoan pathogen Toxoplasma gondii relies on tight regulation of gene expression to invade and establish infection in its host. The divergent gene regulatory mechanisms of Toxoplasma and related apicomplexan pathogens rely heavily on regulators of chromatin structure and histone modifications. The important contribution of histone acetylation for Toxoplasma in both acute and chronic infection has been demonstrated, where histone acetylation increases at active gene loci. However, the direct consequences of specific histone acetylation marks and the chromatin pathway that influences transcriptional regulation in response to the modification are unclear. As a reader of lysine acetylation, the bromodomain serves as a mediator between the acetylated histone and transcriptional regulators. Here we show that the bromodomain protein, TgBDP1, which is conserved among Apicomplexa and within the Alveolata superphylum, is essential for Toxoplasma asexual proliferation. Using cleavage under targets and tagmentation, we demonstrate that TgBDP1 is recruited to transcriptional start sites of a large proportion of parasite genes. Transcriptional profiling during TgBDP1 knockdown revealed that loss of TgBDP1 leads to major dysregulation of gene expression, implying multiple roles for TgBDP1 in both gene activation and repression. This is supported by interactome analysis of TgBDP1 demonstrating that TgBDP1 forms a core complex with two other bromodomain proteins and an ApiAP2 factor. This core complex appears to interact with other epigenetic factors such as nucleosome remodeling complexes. We conclude that TgBDP1 interacts with diverse epigenetic regulators to exert opposing influences on gene expression in the Toxoplasma tachyzoite. IMPORTANCE Histone acetylation is critical for proper regulation of gene expression in the single-celled eukaryotic pathogen Toxoplasma gondii. Bromodomain proteins are "readers" of histone acetylation and may link the modified chromatin to transcription factors. Here, we show that the bromodomain protein TgBDP1 is essential for parasite survival and that loss of TgBDP1 results in global dysregulation of gene expression. TgBDP1 is recruited to the promoter region of a large proportion of parasite genes, forms a core complex with two other bromodomain proteins, and interacts with different transcriptional regulatory complexes. We conclude that TgBDP1 is a key factor for sensing specific histone modifications to influence multiple facets of transcriptional regulation in Toxoplasma gondii.
    Keywords:  Toxoplasma gondii; chromatin; histone acetylation; molecular biology; transcriptional regulation
  2. Nat Commun. 2023 Jun 20. 14(1): 3659
      Iron is essential to cells as a cofactor in enzymes of respiration and replication, however without correct storage, iron leads to the formation of dangerous oxygen radicals. In yeast and plants, iron is transported into a membrane-bound vacuole by the vacuolar iron transporter (VIT). This transporter is conserved in the apicomplexan family of obligate intracellular parasites, including in Toxoplasma gondii. Here, we assess the role of VIT and iron storage in T. gondii. By deleting VIT, we find a slight growth defect in vitro, and iron hypersensitivity, confirming its essential role in parasite iron detoxification, which can be rescued by scavenging of oxygen radicals. We show VIT expression is regulated by iron at transcript and protein levels, and by altering VIT localization. In the absence of VIT, T. gondii responds by altering expression of iron metabolism genes and by increasing antioxidant protein catalase activity. We also show that iron detoxification has an important role both in parasite survival within macrophages and in virulence in a mouse model. Together, by demonstrating a critical role for VIT during iron detoxification in T. gondii, we reveal the importance of iron storage in the parasite and provide the first insight into the machinery involved.
  3. mSphere. 2023 Jun 21. e0067022
      Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate, intracellular parasite. Infection of a cell produces a unique niche for the parasite named the parasitophorous vacuole (PV) initially composed of host plasma membrane invaginated during invasion. The PV and its membrane (parasitophorous vacuole membrane [PVM]) are subsequently decorated with a variety of parasite proteins allowing the parasite to optimally grow in addition to manipulate host processes. Recently, we reported a proximity-labeling screen at the PVM-host interface and identified host endoplasmic reticulum (ER)-resident motile sperm domain-containing protein 2 (MOSPD2) as being enriched at this location. Here we extend these findings in several important respects. First, we show that the extent and pattern of host MOSPD2 association with the PVM differ dramatically in cells infected with different strains of Toxoplasma. Second, in cells infected with Type I RH strain, the MOSPD2 staining is mutually exclusive with regions of the PVM that associate with mitochondria. Third, immunoprecipitation and liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) with epitope-tagged MOSPD2-expressing host cells reveal strong enrichment of several PVM-localized parasite proteins, although none appear to play an essential role in MOSPD2 association. Fourth, most MOSPD2 associating with the PVM is newly translated after infection of the cell and requires the major functional domains of MOSPD2, identified as the CRAL/TRIO domain and tail anchor, although these domains were not sufficient for PVM association. Lastly, ablation of MOSPD2 results in, at most, a modest impact on Toxoplasma growth in vitro. Collectively, these studies provide new insight into the molecular interactions involving MOSPD2 at the dynamic interface between the PVM and the host cytosol. IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular pathogen that lives within a membranous vacuole inside of its host cell. This vacuole is decorated by a variety of parasite proteins that allow it to defend against host attack, acquire nutrients, and interact with the host cell. Recent work identified and validated host proteins enriched at this host-pathogen interface. Here, we follow up on one candidate named MOSPD2 shown to be enriched at the vacuolar membrane and describe it as having a dynamic interaction at this location depending on a variety of factors. Some of these include the presence of host mitochondria, intrinsic domains of the host protein, and whether translation is active. Importantly, we show that MOSPD2 enrichment at the vacuole membrane differs between strains indicating active involvement of the parasite with this phenotype. Altogether, these results shed light on the mechanism and role of protein associations in the host-pathogen interaction.
    Keywords:  MOSPD2; Parasitophorous vacuole membrane; Type I/II/III
  4. Exp Parasitol. 2023 Jun 16. pii: S0014-4894(23)00106-6. [Epub ahead of print] 108565
      Toxoplasmosis is a serious parasitic infection and novel therapeutic options are highly demanded to effectively eliminate it. In current study, Toxoplasma gondii myosin A, C and F genes were knocked down using small interference RNA (siRNA) method and the parasite survival and virulence was evaluated in vitro and in vivo. The parasites were transfected with specific siRNA, virtually designed for myosin mRNAs, and co-cultured with human foreskin fibroblasts. The transfection rate and the viability of the transfected parasites were measured using flow cytometry and methyl thiazole tetrazolium (MTT) assays, respectively. Finally, the survival of BALB/c mice infected with siRNAs-transfected T. gondii was assessed. It was demonstrated that a transfection rate of 75.4% existed for siRNAs, resulting in 70% (P = 0.032), 80.6% (P = 0.017) and 85.5% (P = 0.013) gene suppression for myosin A, C and F in affected parasites, respectively, which was subsequently confirmed by Western blot analysis. Moreover, lower parasite viability was observed in those with knocked down myosin C with 80% (P = 0.0001), followed by 86.15% (P = 0.004) for myosin F and 92.3% (P = 0.083) for myosin A. Considerably higher mouse survival (about 40 h) was, also, demonstrated in mice challenged with myosin siRNA-transfected T. gondii, in comparison with control group challenged with wild-type parasites. In conclusion, myosin proteins knock down proposes a promising therapeutic strategy to combat toxoplasmosis.
    Keywords:  Expression; Myosin; Toxoplasma gondii; Virulence; siRNA
  5. Parasite Immunol. 2023 Jun 21. e13001
      Toxoplasma gondii is a zoonotic parasite with a global distribution. Heterophil extracellular traps (HETs) are a novel innate immune mechanism of chickens against pathogens, but whether T. gondii can induce HETs release in chickens has not been reported. The effects of T. gondii on heterophils viability were assessed by using Cell Counting Kit-8. T. gondii-induced HETs were observed and analysed by the immunofluorescence method. T. gondii-induced reactive oxygen species (ROS) was determined by the DCFH-DA method. The mechanisms underlying T. gondii-triggered HETs were investigated by inhibitors and fluorescence microplate reader. T. gondii did not significantly affect heterophils viability at a 1:1 ratio within 1 h. It was demonstrated for the first time that T. gondii could induce HETs release in chicken, and the structure of HETs was comprised of DNA, elastase and citrullinated histone 3 (citH3). T. gondii increased ROS production in a dose-dependent manner. Inhibitors of NADPH oxidase, extracellular signal-regulated kinase 1/2 (ERK1/2 ) and P38 signalling pathways, glycolysis and autophagy significantly decreased the release of T. gondii-induced HETs. Taken together, T. gondii can induce HETs release in chickens, and ROS, NADPH oxidase, ERK1/2 and P38 signalling pathways, glycolysis and autophagy participate in the process of HETs release, which provides new insights into the innate immune mechanism of chickens against T. gondii infection.
    Keywords:  Toxoplasma gondii; autophagy; chickens; glycolysis; heterophil extracellular traps
  6. Autophagy. 2023 Jun 20. 1-3
      In glucose-starved cells, macroautophagy (hereafter referred to as autophagy) is considered to serve as an energy-generating process contributing to cell survival. AMPK (adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase) is the primary cellular energy sensor that is activated during glucose starvation. According to the current paradigm in the field, AMPK promotes autophagy in response to energy deprivation by binding and phosphorylating ULK1 (UNC-51 like kinase 1), the protein kinase responsible for autophagy initiation. However, conflicting findings have been reported casting doubts about the current established model. In our recent study, we have thoroughly reevaluated the role of AMPK in autophagy. Contrary to the current paradigm, our study revealed that AMPK functions as a negative regulator of ULK1 activity. The study has elucidated the underlying mechanism and demonstrated the significance of the negative role in controlling autophagy and maintaining cellular resilience during energy depletion.Abbreviations: AMPK: adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase; ULK1: UNC-51 like kinase 1; MTORC1: mechanistic target of rapamycin complex 1; ATG14: autophagy-related protein 14; PIK3C3: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase catalytic subunit type 3; ATP: adenosine triphosphate; VPS34: vacuolar protein sorting 34; BECN1: Beclin 1; AMPKα: AMPK catalytic subunit α; LKB1: liver kinase B1; PIK3R4: phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase regulatory subunit 4.
    Keywords:  AMPK; LKB1; MTORC1; ULK1; energy stress; glucose starvation
  7. Microb Pathog. 2023 Jun 16. pii: S0882-4010(23)00239-5. [Epub ahead of print] 106206
      Toxoplasmosis is a zoonotic protozoal disease affecting approximately one-third of the world's population. The lack of current treatment options necessitates the development of drugs with good tolerance and effectiveness on the active and cystic stages of the parasite. The present study was established to investigate, for the first time, the potential potency of clofazimine (CFZ) against acute and chronic experimental toxoplasmosis. For this purpose, the type II T. gondii (Me49 strain) was used for induction acute (20 cysts in each mouse) and chronic (10 cysts in each mouse) experimental toxoplasmosis. The mice were treated with 20 mg/kg of CFZ intraperitoneally and orally. The histopathological changes, brain cyst count, total Antioxidant Capacity (TAC), malondialdehyde (MDA) assay, and the level of INF-γ were also evaluated. In the acute toxoplasmosis, both IP and oral administration of CFZ induced a significant reduction in brain parasite burden by 90.2 and 89%, respectively, and increased the survival rate to 100% compared with 60% in untreated controls. In the chronic infection, cyst burden decreased at 85.71 and 76.18% in CFZ-treated subgroups in comparison to infected untreated controls. In addition, 87.5% and 100% of CFZ-treated subgroups survived versus untreated control 62.5%. Moreover, CFZ significantly increased INF-γ levels in acute and chronic toxoplasmosis. Tissue inflammatory lesions were considerably reduced in the CFZ-treated chronic subgroups. CFZ treatment significantly reduced MDA levels and elevated TAC in both acute and chronic infections. In conclusion, CFZ showed a promising finding regarding the ability to reduce cyst burden in acute and chronic infection. Further studies are needed to investigate the therapeutic role of CFZ on toxoplasmosis using the long-term treatment and more advanced approaches. In addition, clofazimine may need to be accompanied by another drug to augment its effect and prevent the regrowth of parasites.
    Keywords:  Acute; Chronic; Clofazimine; Mice; Toxoplasmosis
  8. PLoS One. 2023 ;18(6): e0286808
      Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous zoonotic parasite that can infect warm-blooded vertebrates, including humans. Felids, the definitive hosts, drive T. gondii infections by shedding the environmentally resistant stage of the parasite (oocysts) in their feces. Few studies characterize the role of climate and anthropogenic factors in oocyst shedding among free-ranging felids, which are responsible for the majority of environmental contamination. We determined how climate and anthropogenic factors influence oocyst shedding in free-ranging domestic cats and wild felids using generalized linear mixed models. T. gondii oocyst shedding data from 47 studies were systematically reviewed and compiled for domestic cats and six wild felid species, encompassing 256 positives out of 9,635 total fecal samples. Shedding prevalence in domestic cats and wild felids was positively associated with human population density at the sampling location. Larger mean diurnal temperature range was associated with more shedding among domestic cats and warmer temperature in the driest quarter was associated with lower oocyst shedding in wild felids. Increasing human population density and temperature fluctuation can exacerbate environmental contamination with the protozoan parasite T. gondii. Management of free-ranging domestic cats could lower the burden of environmental oocysts due to their large population sizes and affinity with human settlements.
  9. PLoS Pathog. 2023 Jun 23. 19(6): e1011449
      Malaria parasite release (egress) from host red blood cells involves parasite-mediated membrane poration and rupture, thought to involve membrane-lytic effector molecules such as perforin-like proteins and/or phospholipases. With the aim of identifying these effectors, we disrupted the expression of two Plasmodium falciparum perforin-like proteins simultaneously and showed that they have no essential roles during blood stage egress. Proteomic profiling of parasite proteins discharged into the parasitophorous vacuole (PV) just prior to egress detected the presence in the PV of a lecithin:cholesterol acyltransferase (LCAT; PF3D7_0629300). Conditional ablation of LCAT resulted in abnormal egress and a reduced replication rate. Lipidomic profiles of LCAT-null parasites showed drastic changes in several phosphatidylserine and acylphosphatidylglycerol species during egress. We thus show that, in addition to its previously demonstrated role in liver stage merozoite egress, LCAT is required to facilitate efficient egress in asexual blood stage malaria parasites.
  10. Annu Rev Cell Dev Biol. 2023 Jun 20.
      Every eukaryotic cell contains two, distinct multisubunit protein kinase complexes that each contain a TOR (target of rapamycin) protein as the catalytic subunit. These ensembles, designated TORC1 and TORC2, serve as nutrient and stress sensors, signal integrators, and regulators of cell growth and homeostasis, but they differ in their composition, localization, and function. TORC1, activated on the cytosolic surface of the vacuole (or, in mammalian cells, on the cytosolic surface of the lysosome), promotes biosynthesis and suppresses autophagy. TORC2, located primarily at the plasma membrane (PM), maintains the proper levels and bilayer distribution of all PM components (sphingolipids, glycerophospholipids, sterols, and integral membrane proteins), which are needed for the membrane expansion that accompanies cell growth and division and for combating insults to PM integrity. This review summarizes our current understanding of the assembly, structural features, subcellular distribution, and function and regulation of TORC2, obtained largely through studies conducted with Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Expected final online publication date for the Annual Review of Cell and Developmental Biology, Volume 39 is October 2023. Please see for revised estimates.