bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2023‒07‒02
thirteen papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar
BITS Pilani

  1. Microorganisms. 2023 Jun 12. pii: 1558. [Epub ahead of print]11(6):
      Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite of the phylum Apicomplexa and causes toxoplasmosis infections, a disease that affects a quarter of the world's population and has no effective cure. Epigenetic regulation is one of the mechanisms controlling gene expression and plays an essential role in all organisms. Lysine deacetylases (KDACs) act as epigenetic regulators affecting gene silencing in many eukaryotes. Here, we focus on TgKDAC4, an enzyme unique to apicomplexan parasites, and a class IV KDAC, the least-studied class of deacetylases so far. This enzyme shares only a portion of the specific KDAC domain with other organisms. Phylogenetic analysis from the TgKDAC4 domain shows a putative prokaryotic origin. Surprisingly, TgKDAC4 is located in the apicoplast, making it the only KDAC found in this organelle to date. Transmission electron microscopy assays confirmed the presence of TgKDAC4 in the periphery of the apicoplast. We identified possible targets or/and partners of TgKDAC4 by immunoprecipitation assays followed by mass spectrometry analysis, including TgCPN60 and TgGAPDH2, both located at the apicoplast and containing acetylation sites. Understanding how the protein works could provide new insights into the metabolism of the apicoplast, an essential organelle for parasite survival.
    Keywords:  Desacetilase; Toxoplasma; apicoplast
  2. mBio. 2023 Jun 30. e0079523
      The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii induces host AKT activation to prevent autophagy-mediated clearance; however, the molecular underpinnings are not fully understood. Autophagy can be negatively regulated through AKT-sensitive phosphorylation and nuclear export of the transcription factor Forkhead box O3a (FOXO3a). Using a combination of pharmacological and genetic approaches, herein we investigated whether T. gondii hinders host autophagy through AKT-dependent inactivation of FOXO3a. We found that infection by type I and II strains of T. gondii promotes gradual and sustained AKT-dependent phosphorylation of FOXO3a at residues S253 and T32 in human foreskin fibroblasts (HFF) and murine 3T3 fibroblasts. Mechanistically, AKT-sensitive phosphorylation of FOXO3a by T. gondii required live infection and the activity of PI3K but was independent of the plasma membrane receptor EGFR and the kinase PKCα. Phosphorylation of FOXO3a at AKT-sensitive residues was paralleled by its nuclear exclusion in T. gondii-infected HFF. Importantly, the parasite was unable to drive cytoplasmic localization of FOXO3a upon pharmacological blockade of AKT or overexpression of an AKT-insensitive mutant form of FOXO3a. Transcription of a subset of bona fide autophagy-related targets of FOXO3a was reduced during T. gondii infection in an AKT-dependent fashion. However, parasite-directed repression of autophagy-related genes was AKT-resistant in cells deficient in FOXO3a. Consistent with this, T. gondii failed to inhibit the recruitment of acidic organelles and LC3, an autophagy marker, to the parasitophorous vacuole upon chemically or genetically induced nuclear retention of FOXO3a. In all, we provide evidence that T. gondii suppresses FOXO3a-regulated transcriptional programs to prevent autophagy-mediated killing. IMPORTANCE The parasite Toxoplasma gondii is the etiological agent of toxoplasmosis, an opportunistic infection commonly transmitted by ingestion of contaminated food or water. To date, no effective vaccines in humans have been developed and no promising drugs are available to treat chronic infection or prevent congenital infection. T. gondii targets numerous host cell processes to establish a favorable replicative niche. Of note, T. gondii activates the host AKT signaling pathway to prevent autophagy-mediated killing. Herein, we report that T. gondii inhibits FOXO3a, a transcription factor that regulates the expression of autophagy-related genes, through AKT-dependent phosphorylation. The parasite's ability to block the recruitment of the autophagy machinery to the parasitophorous vacuole is impeded upon pharmacological inhibition of AKT or overexpression of an AKT-insensitive form of FOXO3a. Thus, our study provides greater granularity in the role of FOXO3a during infection and reinforces the potential of targeting autophagy as a therapeutic strategy against T. gondii.
    Keywords:  AKT; FOXO3a; Toxoplasma gondii; autophagy; host response; host-pathogen interactions; transcriptional regulation
  3. mSphere. 2023 Jun 29. e0027123
      Yifan Wang works in the field of molecular parasitology with a focus on host-pathogen interactions. In this mSphere of Influence article, he reflects on how papers entitled "A genome-wide CRISPR screen in Toxoplasma identifies essential apicomplexan genes" by S. M. Sidik, D. Huet, S. M. Ganesan, M.-H. Huynh, et al. (Cell 166:1423.e12-1435.e12, 2016, and "Mapping host-microbe transcriptional interactions by dual Perturb-seq" by S. Butterworth, K. Kordova, S. Chandrasekaran, K. K. Thomas, et al. (bioRxiv, made an impact on his research and changed the way he thinks how functional genomics and high-throughput screens provide novel insights into pathogen pathogenesis.
    Keywords:  CRISPR screen; Toxoplasma gondii; functional genomics
  4. Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 2023 Jun 28. pii: trad040. [Epub ahead of print]
      BACKGROUND: Three obligate intracellular protozoan parasite species, which are responsible for significant morbidity and mortality and settle in macrophage cells, affect more than one-half of the world's population, namely, Trypanosoma cruzi, Leishmania tropica and Toxoplasma gondii, which are causative agents of Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and toxoplasmosis, respectively. In the current study, it was aimed to investigate the in vitro and ex vivo antiprotozoal activity of auranofin on T. cruzi, L. tropica and T. gondii.METHODS: The in vitro drug efficacy (IC50) of auranofin was investigated by haemocytometry and the CellTiter-Glo assay methods and the ex vivo drug efficacy (IC50) by light microscopic examination of Giemsa-stained slides. Also, the cytotoxic activity (CC50) of auranofin was examined by the CellTiter-Glo assay. The selectivity index (SI) was calculated for auranofin.
    RESULTS: According to IC50, CC50 and SI data, auranofin did not exhibit cytotoxic activity on Vero cells, but exhibited antiprotozoal activity on epimastigotes and intracellular amastigotes of T. cruzi, promastigotes and intracellular amastigotes of L. tropica and intracellular tachyzoites of T. gondii (p<0.05).
    CONCLUSIONS: The detection antiprotozoal activity of auranofin on T. cruzi, L. tropica and T. gondii according to the IC50, CC50 and SI values is considered an important and promising development. This is significant because auranofin may be an effective alternative treatment for Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and toxoplasmosis in the future.
    Keywords:   Leishmania tropica ; Toxoplasma gondii ; Trypanosoma cruzi ; antiprotozoal activity; auranofin
  5. Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Jun 16. pii: 10228. [Epub ahead of print]24(12):
      MORN proteins play a key role in the cytoskeletal structure of eukaryotes and are essential for the close arrangement of the endoplasmic reticulum and plasma membrane. A gene with nine MORN motifs (TGGT1_292120, named TgMORN2) was identified in the Toxoplasma gondii genome; it was presumed to belong to the MORN protein family and to have the function of forming the cytoskeleton, which affects the survival of T. gondii. However, the genetic deletion of MORN2 did not noticeably affect parasite growth and virulence. Using adjacent protein labeling techniques, we identified a network of TgMORN2 interactions, which mainly included endoplasmic reticulum stress (ER stress)-related proteins. In exploring these data, we found that the pathogenicity of the KO-TgMORN2 strain was significantly reduced in the case of tunicamycin-induced ER stress. Reticulon TgRTN (TGGT1_226430) and tubulin β-Tubulin were identified as interaction proteins of TgMORN2. Collectively, TgMORN2 plays a role in ER stress, which lays a foundation for further research on the function of the MORN protein in T. gondii.
    Keywords:  TgMORN2; Toxoplasma gondii; endoplasmic reticulum stress
  6. Mol Cancer Res. 2023 Jun 26. pii: MCR-22-0935. [Epub ahead of print]
      Correlations between the oxidative stress response and metabolic reprogramming have been observed during malignant tumor formation; however, the detailed mechanism remains elusive. The transcription factor Nrf2, a master regulator of the oxidative stress response, mediates metabolic reprogramming in multiple cancers. In a mouse model of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), through metabolic profiling, genome-wide gene expression, and chromatin structure analyses, we present new evidence showing that in addition to altering antioxidative stress response signaling, Nrf2 ablation impairs multiple metabolic pathways to reduce the generation of acetyl-CoA and suppress histone acetylation in tumors, but not in tumor-adjacent normal tissue. Nrf2 ablation and dysregulated histone acetylation impair transcription complex assembly on downstream target antioxidant and metabolic regulatory genes for expression regulation. Mechanistic studies indicate that the regulatory function of Nrf2 is low glucose dependent, the effect of which is demolished under energy refeeding. Together, our results implicate an unexpected effect of Nrf2 on acetyl-CoA generation, in addition to its classic antioxidative stress response regulatory activity, integrates metabolic and epigenetic programs to drive HCC progression. Implications: This study highlights that Nrf2 integrates metabolic and epigenetic regulatory networks to dictate tumor progression and that Nrf2 targeting is therapeutically exploitable in HCC treatment.
  7. Amino Acids. 2023 Jun 30.
      In the combat of treating cancer recent therapeutic approaches are focused towards enzymatic targets as they occupy a pivotal participation in the cascade of oncogenesis and malignancy. There are several enzymes that modulate the epigenetic pathways and chromatin structure related to cancer mutation. Among several epigenetic mechanisms such as methylation, phosphorylation, and sumoylation, acetylation status of histones is crucial and is governed by counteracting enzymes like histone acetyl transferase (HAT) and histone deacetylases (HDAC) which have contradictory effects on the histone acetylation. HDAC inhibition induces chromatin relaxation which forms euchromatin and thereby initiates the expression of certain transcription factors attributed with apoptosis, which are mostly correlated with the expression of the p21 gene and acetylation of H3 and H4 histones. Most of the synthetic and natural HDAC inhibitors elicit antineoplastic effect through activation of various apoptotic pathways and promoting cell cycle arrest at various phases. Due to their promising chemo preventive action and low cytotoxicity against normal host cells, bioactive substances like flavonoids, alkaloids, and polyphenolic compounds from plants have recently gained importance. Even though all bioactive compounds mentioned have an HDAC inhibitory action, some of them have a direct effect and others enhance the effects of the standard well known HDAC inhibitors. In this review, the action of plant derived compounds against histone deacetylases in a variety of in vitro cancer cell lines and in vivo animal models are articulated.
    Keywords:  Chemoprevention; Epigenetic pathways; HDAC inhibition; Histone acetylation; Phytochemicals
  8. Infect Immun. 2023 Jun 26. e0056622
      Recent advances into the unique biology of Toxoplasma tissue cysts and the bradyzoites they house necessitate optimization of tissue cyst recovery from infected mouse brains. Here, we present data from 83 tissue cyst purifications of Type II ME49 tissue cysts in CBA/J mice performed over a period of 3 years. The effects of infection with both tissue culture tachyzoites as well as ex vivo tissue cysts were assessed. Significant mortality was restricted to tachyzoite infections with female mice being more susceptible. Infection with tissue cysts was associated with both lower overall symptomology and mortality, exhibiting no sex bias. Cumulatively, host sex did not impact overall tissue cyst yields, although tachyzoite-initiated infections generated significantly higher yields compared to tissue cyst-initiated infections. Notably, serial passage of tissue cysts was accompanied with a decreasing trend for subsequent cyst recovery. The time of tissue cyst harvest, a potential reflection of bradyzoite physiological state, had no significant impact on subsequent cyst yield at the selected time points. In aggregate, these data reveal the considerable heterogeneity associated with tissue cyst yield, making the design of adequately powered experiments critical. This is particularly the case for drug studies where overall tissue cyst burden is currently the primary and often sole metric of efficacy, as the data presented here demonstrate that cyst recovery between preparations of untreated animals can mirror and even exceed the reported effects of drug treatment.
    Keywords:  Toxoplasma gondii; bradyzoite; tissue cyst
  9. Science. 2023 Jun 30. 380(6652): 1372-1380
      Adenosine monophosphate-activated protein kinase (AMPK) activity is stimulated to promote metabolic adaptation upon energy stress. However, sustained metabolic stress may cause cell death. The mechanisms by which AMPK dictates cell death are not fully understood. We report that metabolic stress promoted receptor-interacting protein kinase 1 (RIPK1) activation mediated by TRAIL receptors, whereas AMPK inhibited RIPK1 by phosphorylation at Ser415 to suppress energy stress-induced cell death. Inhibiting pS415-RIPK1 by Ampk deficiency or RIPK1 S415A mutation promoted RIPK1 activation. Furthermore, genetic inactivation of RIPK1 protected against ischemic injury in myeloid Ampkα1-deficient mice. Our studies reveal that AMPK phosphorylation of RIPK1 represents a crucial metabolic checkpoint, which dictates cell fate response to metabolic stress, and highlight a previously unappreciated role for the AMPK-RIPK1 axis in integrating metabolism, cell death, and inflammation.
  10. Microb Cell Fact. 2023 Jun 29. 22(1): 117
      BACKGROUND: Production of 3-hydroxypropionic acid (3-HP) through the malonyl-CoA pathway has yielded promising results in Pichia pastoris (Komagataella phaffii), demonstrating the potential of this cell factory to produce this platform chemical and other acetyl-CoA-derived products using glycerol as a carbon source. However, further metabolic engineering of the original P. pastoris 3-HP-producing strains resulted in unexpected outcomes, e.g., significantly lower product yield and/or growth rate. To gain an understanding on the metabolic constraints underlying these observations, the fluxome (metabolic flux phenotype) of ten 3-HP-producing P. pastoris strains has been characterized using a high throughput 13C-metabolic flux analysis platform. Such platform enabled the operation of an optimised workflow to obtain comprehensive maps of the carbon flux distribution in the central carbon metabolism in a parallel-automated manner, thereby accelerating the time-consuming strain characterization step in the design-build-test-learn cycle for metabolic engineering of P. pastoris.RESULTS: We generated detailed maps of the carbon fluxes in the central carbon metabolism of the 3-HP producing strain series, revealing the metabolic consequences of different metabolic engineering strategies aimed at improving NADPH regeneration, enhancing conversion of pyruvate into cytosolic acetyl-CoA, or eliminating by-product (arabitol) formation. Results indicate that the expression of the POS5 NADH kinase leads to a reduction in the fluxes of the pentose phosphate pathway reactions, whereas an increase in the pentose phosphate pathway fluxes was observed when the cytosolic acetyl-CoA synthesis pathway was overexpressed. Results also show that the tight control of the glycolytic flux hampers cell growth due to limited acetyl-CoA biosynthesis. When the cytosolic acetyl-CoA synthesis pathway was overexpressed, the cell growth increased, but the product yield decreased due to higher growth-associated ATP costs. Finally, the six most relevant strains were also cultured at pH 3.5 to assess the effect of a lower pH on their fluxome. Notably, similar metabolic fluxes were observed at pH 3.5 compared to the reference condition at pH 5.
    CONCLUSIONS: This study shows that existing fluoxomics workflows for high-throughput analyses of metabolic phenotypes can be adapted to investigate P. pastoris, providing valuable information on the impact of genetic manipulations on the metabolic phenotype of this yeast. Specifically, our results highlight the metabolic robustness of P. pastoris's central carbon metabolism when genetic modifications are made to increase the availability of NADPH and cytosolic acetyl-CoA. Such knowledge can guide further metabolic engineering of these strains. Moreover, insights into the metabolic adaptation of P. pastoris to an acidic pH have also been obtained, showing the capability of the fluoxomics workflow to assess the metabolic impact of environmental changes.
    Keywords:  13C-Metabolic flux analysis; 3-hydroxypropionic acid; Fluxomics; High throughput; Komagataella phaffii; Pichia pastoris; acetyl-CoA
  11. Drug Discov Today. 2023 Jun 26. pii: S1359-6446(23)00208-8. [Epub ahead of print] 103692
      Cellular localization and deacetylation activity of Sirtuin 1 (SIRT1) has a significant role in cancer regulation. The multifactorial role of SIRT1 in autophagy regulates several cancer-associated cellular phenotypes, aiding cellular survival and cell death induction. SIRT1-mediated deacetylation of autophagy-related genes (ATGs) and associated signaling mediators control carcinogenesis. The hyperactivation of bulk autophagy, disrupted lysosomal and mitochondrial biogenesis, and excessive mitophagy is a key mechanism for SIRT1-mediated autophagic cell death (ACD). In terms of the SIRT1-ACD nexus, identifying SIRT1-activating small molecules and understanding the possible mechanism triggering ACD could be a potential therapeutic avenue for cancer prevention. In this review, we provide an update on the structural and functional intricacy of SIRT1 and SIRT1-mediated autophagy activation as an alternative cell death modality for cancer prevention.
    Keywords:  SIRT1; apoptosis; autophagic cell death; autophagy; cancer
  12. PLoS Pathog. 2023 Jun 29. 19(6): e1011481
      Microbial pathogens balance growth against tissue damage to achieve maximum fitness. Central carbon metabolism is connected to growth, but how it influences growth/damage balance is largely unknown. Here we examined how carbon flux through the exclusively fermentative metabolism of the pathogenic lactic acid bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes impacts patterns of growth and tissue damage. Using a murine model of soft tissue infection, we systematically examined single and pair-wise mutants that constrained carbon flux through the three major pathways that S. pyogenes employs for reduction of the glycolytic intermediate pyruvate, revealing distinct disease outcomes. Its canonical lactic acid pathway (via lactate dehydrogenase) made a minimal contribution to virulence. In contrast, its two parallel pathways for mixed-acid fermentation played important, but non-overlapping roles. Anaerobic mixed acid fermentation (via pyruvate formate lyase) was required for growth in tissue, while aerobic mixed-acid pathway (via pyruvate dehydrogenase) was not required for growth, but instead regulated levels of tissue damage. Infection of macrophages in vitro revealed that pyruvate dehydrogenase was required to prevent phagolysosomal acidification, which altered expression of the immunosuppressive cytokine IL-10. Infection of IL-10 deficient mice confirmed that the ability of aerobic metabolism to regulate levels of IL-10 plays a key role in the ability of S. pyogenes to modulate levels of tissue damage. Taken together, these results show critical non-overlapping roles for anaerobic and aerobic metabolism in soft tissue infection and provide a mechanism for how oxygen and carbon flux act coordinately to regulate growth/damage balance. Therapies targeting carbon flux could be developed to mitigate tissue damage during severe S. pyogenes infection.
  13. ACS Synth Biol. 2023 Jun 26.
      Protein lysine acetylation (PLA) is a crucial post-translational modification in organisms that regulates a variety of metabolic and physiological activities. Many advances have been made in PLA-related research; however, the quick and accurate identification of causal relationships between specific protein acetylation events and phenotypic outcomes at the proteome level remains challenging due to the lack of efficient targeted modification techniques. In this study, based on the characteristics of transcription-translation coupling in bacteria, we designed and constructed an in situ targeted protein acetylation (TPA) system integrating the dCas12a protein, guiding element crRNA, and bacterial acetylase At2. Rapid identification of multiple independent protein acetylation and cell phenotypic analyses in Gram-negative Escherichia coli and Gram-positive Clostridium ljungdahlii demonstrated that TPA is a specific and efficient targeting tool for protein modification studies and engineering.
    Keywords:  CRISPR-dCas12a; acetyltransferase; bacteria; target protein acetylation/ propionylation