bims-toxgon Biomed News
on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism
Issue of 2024‒04‒07
sixteen papers selected by
Lakesh Kumar, BITS Pilani

  1. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 25. pii: 2024.03.22.586332. [Epub ahead of print]
      The obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii can infect and replicate in any warm-blooded cell tested to date, but much of our knowledge about T. gondii cell biology comes from just one host cell type: human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs). To expand our knowledge of host-parasite lipid interactions, we studied T. gondii in intestinal epithelial cells, the first site of host-parasite contact following oral infection and the exclusive site of parasite sexual development in feline hosts. We found that highly metabolic Caco-2 cells are permissive to T. gondii growth even when treated with high levels of linoleic acid (LA), a polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) that kills parasites in HFFs. Caco-2 cells appear to sequester LA away from the parasite, preventing membrane disruptions and lipotoxicity that characterize LA-induced parasite death in HFFs. Our work is an important step toward understanding host-parasite interactions in feline intestinal epithelial cells, an understudied but important cell type in the T. gondii life cycle.
  2. Parasit Vectors. 2024 Apr 04. 17(1): 178
      BACKGROUND: To successfully replicate within the host cell, Toxoplasma gondii employs several mechanisms to overcome the host cell defenses and mitigate the harmful effects of the free radicals resulting from its own metabolic processes using effectors such as thioredoxin proteins. In this study, we characterize the location and functions of a newly identified thioredoxin in T. gondii, which was named Trx4.METHODS: We characterized the functional role of Trx4 in T. gondii Type I RH and Type II Pru strains by gene knockout and studied its subcellular localization by endogenous protein HA tagging using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. The enzyme-catalyzed proximity labeling technique, the TurboID system, was employed to identify the proteins in proximity to Trx4.
    RESULTS: Trx4 was identified as a dense granule protein of T. gondii predominantly expressed in the parasitophorous vacuole (PV) and was partially co-localized with GRA1 and GRA5. Functional analysis showed that deletion of trx4 markedly influenced the parasite lytic cycle, resulting in impaired host cell invasion capacity in both RH and Pru strains. Mutation of Trx domains in Trx4 in RH strain revealed that two Trx domains were important for the parasite invasion. By utilizing the TurboID system to biotinylate proteins in proximity to Trx4, we identified a substantial number of proteins, some of which are novel, and others are previously characterized, predominantly distributed in the dense granules. In addition, we uncovered three novel proteins co-localized with Trx4. Intriguingly, deletion of trx4 did not affect the localization of these three proteins. Finally, a virulence assay demonstrated that knockout of trx4 resulted in a significant attenuation of virulence and a significant reduction in brain cyst loads in mice.
    CONCLUSIONS: Trx4 plays an important role in T. gondii invasion and virulence in Type I RH strain and Type II Pru strain. Combining the TurboID system with CRISPR-Cas9 technique revealed many PV-localized proximity proteins associated with Trx4. These findings suggest a versatile role of Trx4 in mediating the processes that occur in this distinctive intracellular membrane-bound vacuolar compartment.
    Keywords:   Toxoplasma gondii ; Parasitophorous vacuole; Thioredoxin; TurboID; Virulence
  3. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 18. pii: 2024.03.18.585462. [Epub ahead of print]
      The single mitochondrion of the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii is highly dynamic. Toxoplasma's mitochondrion changes morphology as the parasite moves from the intracellular to the extracellular environment and during division. Toxoplasma's mitochondrial dynamic is dependent on an outer mitochondrion membrane-associated protein LMF1 and its interaction with IMC10, a protein localized at the inner membrane complex (IMC). In the absence of either LMF1 or IMC10, parasites have defective mitochondrial morphology and inheritance defects. As little is known about mitochondrial inheritance in Toxoplasma , we have used the LMF1/IMC10 tethering complex as an entry point to dissect the machinery behind this process. Using a yeast two-hybrid screen, we previously identified Myosin A (MyoA) as a putative interactor of LMF1. Although MyoA is known to be located at the parasite's pellicle, we now show through ultrastructure expansion microscopy (U-ExM) that this protein accumulates around the mitochondrion in the late stages of parasite division. Parasites lacking MyoA show defective mitochondrial morphology and a delay in mitochondrion delivery to the daughter parasite buds during division, indicating that this protein is involved in organellar inheritance. Disruption of the parasite's actin network also affects mitochondrion morphology. We also show that parasite-extracted mitochondrion vesicles interact with actin filaments. Interestingly, mitochondrion vesicles extracted out of parasites lacking LMF1 pulled down less actin, showing that LMF1 might be important for mitochondrion and actin interaction. Accordingly, we are showing for the first time that actin and Myosin A are important for Toxoplasma mitochondrial morphology and inheritance.
  4. mSphere. 2024 Apr 03. e0000724
      Bruno Martorelli Di Genova works in parasitology, focusing on Toxoplasma gondii metabolism. In this mSphere of Influence article, he reflects on how the articles "Metabolic Reprogramming during Purine Stress in the Protozoan Pathogen Leishmania donovani" and "Yeast-Based High-Throughput Screen Identifies Plasmodium falciparum Equilibrative Nucleoside Transporter 1 Inhibitors That Kill Malaria Parasites" impacted him, informing his research strategies and understanding of metabolic flexibility in Toxoplasma gondii.
    Keywords:  Leishmania; Plasmodium falciparum; apicomplexan parasites; protozoa; purine metabolism
  5. Parasit Vectors. 2024 Apr 05. 17(1): 180
      BACKGROUND: Toxoplasma gondii is an apicomplexan intracellular obligate parasite and the etiological agent of toxoplasmosis in humans, domestic animals and wildlife, causing miscarriages and negatively impacting offspring. During its intracellular development, it relies on nutrients from the host cell, controlling several pathways and the cytoskeleton. T. gondii has been proven to control the host cell cycle, mitosis and cytokinesis, depending on the time of infection and the origin of the host cell. However, no data from parallel infection studies have been collected. Given that T. gondii can infect virtually any nucleated cell, including those of humans and animals, understanding the mechanism by which it infects or develops inside the host cell is essential for disease prevention. Therefore, we aimed here to reveal whether this modulation is dependent on a specific cell type or host cell species.METHODS: We used only primary cells from humans and bovines at a maximum of four passages to ensure that all cells were counted with appropriate cell cycle checkpoint control. The cell cycle progression was analysed using fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)-based DNA quantification, and its regulation was followed by the quantification of cyclin B1 (mitosis checkpoint protein). The results demonstrated that all studied host cells except bovine colonic epithelial cells (BCEC) were arrested in the S-phase, and none of them were affected in cyclin B1 expression. Additionally, we used an immunofluorescence assay to track mitosis and cytokinesis in uninfected and T. gondii-infected cells.
    RESULTS: The results demonstrated that all studied host cell except bovine colonic epithelial cells (BCEC) were arrested in the S-phase, and none of them were affected in cyclin B1 expression. Our findings showed that the analysed cells developed chromosome segregation problems and failed to complete cytokinesis. Also, the number of centrosomes per mitotic pole was increased after infection in all cell types. Therefore, our data suggest that T. gondii modulates the host cell cycle, chromosome segregation and cytokinesis during infection or development regardless of the host cell origin or type.
    Keywords:   Toxoplasma gondii ; Binucleated cells; Cell cycle; Human and bovine cells
  6. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 17. pii: 2024.03.15.585229. [Epub ahead of print]
      Dynamins, or dynamin-related proteins (DRPs), are large mechano-sensitive GTPases mediating membrane dynamics or organellar fission/fusion events. Plasmodium falciparum encodes three dynamin-like proteins whose functions are poorly understood. Here, we demonstrate that PfDyn2 mediates both apicoplast and mitochondrial fission. Using super-resolution and ultrastructure expansion microscopy, we show that PfDyn2 is expressed in the schizont stage and localizes to both the apicoplast and mitochondria. Super-resolution long-term live cell microscopy shows that PfDyn2-deficient parasites cannot complete cytokinesis because the apicoplast and mitochondria do not undergo fission. Further, the basal complex or cytokinetic ring in Plasmodium cannot fully contract upon PfDyn2 depletion, a phenotype secondary to physical blockage of undivided organelles in the middle of the ring. Our data suggest that organellar fission defects result in aberrant schizogony, generating unsuccessful merozoites. The unique biology of PfDyn2, mediating both apicoplast and mitochondrial fission, has not been observed in other organisms possessing two endosymbiotic organelles.Highlights: PfDyn2 is essential for schizont-stage development.PfDyn2 mediates both apicoplast and mitochondrial fission.Deficiency of PfDyn2 leads to organellar fission failures and blockage of basal complex contraction.Addition of apicoplast-derived metabolite IPP does not rescue the growth defects.
  7. Indian J Med Microbiol. 2024 Apr 03. pii: S0255-0857(24)00046-X. [Epub ahead of print]49 100571
      PURPOSE: Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular zoonotic parasite that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including humans. Currently, clinical findings of toxoplasmosis are being related to T. gondii strains such as Type I genotype may cause high pathogenicity and Type II genotype causes a milder clinical presentation. We have showed in our previous that Type II genotype is the most frequent strain detected in stray cats and wild birds living in natural life of İzmir. The aim of this study was to assess toxoplasmosis seroprevalence in immunocompromised patients, investigate the presence of T. gondii DNA in their blood samples, and genotype the PCR positive ones.METHODS: The 42 buffy-coat and serum samples were collected from immunocompromised patients who were from various clinics. Thereafter, Real-Time PCR targeting RE gene of T. gondii was performed with DNA samples obtained from buffy-coat samples. Genotyping was performed by sequencing of GRA6 and GRA7 gene regions of positive DNA samples obtained from tissues of bioassay and PCR positive samples.
    RESULTS: According to Real-Time PCR results, T. gondii DNA was detected in 23.8% (10/42) samples. Among these 10 samples, two samples were determined as T. gondii Type II genotype. Anti-Toxoplasma IgG antibodies were detected in 28.57% (12/42) samples.
    CONCLUSIONS: Overall, the detection of Type II genotype in humans in İzmir province suggested that T. gondii infection in humans, stray cats, and wild animals may be associated to each other in terms of transmission.
    Keywords:  ELISA; Genotyping; Real time PCR; Toxoplasma gondii
  8. PLoS One. 2024 ;19(4): e0297362
      BACKGROUND: Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a worldwide distributed protozoan parasite which has infected a wide range of warm-blooded animals and humans. The most common form of T. gondii infection is asymptomatic (latent); nevertheless, latent toxoplasmosis can induce various alterations of sex hormones, especially testosterone, in infected humans and animals. On the other hand, testosterone is involved in behavioral traits and reproductive functions in both sexes. Hence, the purpose of this systematic review is to summarize the available evidence regarding the association between T. gondii infection and testosterone alteration.METHODS: In the setting of a systematic review, an electronic search (any date to 10 January 2023) without language restrictions was performed using Science Direct, Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and Google Scholar. The PRISMA guidelines were followed. Following the initial search, a total of 12,306 titles and abstracts were screened initially; 12,281 were excluded due to the lack of eligibility criteria or duplication. Finally, 24 articles met the included criteria. A mean±standard deviation (SD) was calculated to assess the difference of testosterone between T. gondii positive and T. gondii negative humans. The possibility of publication bias was assessed using Egger's regression. P-value < 0.05 was considered statistically significant.
    RESULTS: This systematic review identified 24 articles (18 studies in humans and six studies in animals). Most human studies (13 out of 19) reported an increased level of testosterone following latent toxoplasmosis in males, while three studies reported decreased levels and two studies reported an insignificant change. Eleven articles (seven datasets in males and seven datasets in females) were eligible to be included in the data synthesis. Based on the random-effects model, the pooled mean± SD of testosterone in T. gondii positive than T. gondii negative was increased by 0.73 and 0.55 units in males and females, respectively. The Egger's regression did not detect a statistically significant publication bias in males and females (p = value = 0.95 and 0.71), respectively. Three studies in male animals (rats, mice, and spotted hyenas) and two studies in female animals (mice and spotted hyenas) reported a decline in testosterone in infected compared with non-infected animals. While, one study in female rats reported no significant changes of testosterone in infected than non-infected animals. Moreover, two studies in male rats reported an increased level of testosterone in infected than non-infected animals.
    CONCLUSIONS: This study provides new insights about the association between T. gondii infection and testosterone alteration and identifies relevant data gaps that can inform and encourage further studies. The consequence of increased testosterone levels following T. gondii infection could partly be associated with increased sexual behavior and sexual transmission of the parasite. On the other hand, declining testosterone levels following T. gondii infection may be associated with male reproductive impairments, which were observed in T. gondii-infected humans and animals. Furthermore, these findings suggest the great need for more epidemiological and experimental investigations in depth to understand the relationship between T. gondii infection and testosterone alteration alongside with future consequences of testosterone alteration.
  9. Biochem Soc Trans. 2024 Apr 02. pii: BST20230403. [Epub ahead of print]
      Malaria, a vector borne disease, is a major global health and socioeconomic problem caused by the apicomplexan protozoan parasite Plasmodium. The parasite alternates between mosquito vector and vertebrate host, with meiosis in the mosquito and proliferative mitotic cell division in both hosts. In the canonical eukaryotic model, cell division is either by open or closed mitosis and karyokinesis is followed by cytokinesis; whereas in Plasmodium closed mitosis is not directly accompanied by concomitant cell division. Key molecular players and regulatory mechanisms of this process have been identified, but the pivotal role of certain protein complexes and the post-translational modifications that modulate their actions are still to be deciphered. Here, we discuss recent evidence for the function of known proteins in Plasmodium cell division and processes that are potential novel targets for therapeutic intervention. We also identify key questions to open new and exciting research to understand divergent Plasmodium cell division.
    Keywords:   Plasmodium ; DNA replication; cell division; closed mitosis; crystalloids; reversible protein phosphorylation
  10. Mol Microbiol. 2024 Apr 04.
      The protozoan parasite Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria, undergoes an obligatory stage of intra-hepatic development before initiating a blood-stage infection. Productive invasion of hepatocytes involves the formation of a parasitophorous vacuole (PV) generated by the invagination of the host cell plasma membrane. Surrounded by the PV membrane (PVM), the parasite undergoes extensive replication. During intracellular development in the hepatocyte, the parasites provoke the Plasmodium-associated autophagy-related (PAAR) response. This is characterized by a long-lasting association of the autophagy marker protein, and ATG8 family member, LC3B with the PVM. LC3B localization at the PVM does not follow the canonical autophagy pathway since upstream events specific to canonical autophagy are dispensable. Here, we describe that LC3B localization at the PVM of Plasmodium parasites requires the V-ATPase and its interaction with ATG16L1. The WD40 domain of ATG16L1 is crucial for its recruitment to the PVM. Thus, we provide new mechanistic insight into the previously described PAAR response targeting Plasmodium liver stage parasites.
    Keywords:   Plasmodium ; CASM; autophagy; host‐parasite interaction; liver stage
  11. Curr Opin Microbiol. 2024 Apr 03. pii: S1369-5274(24)00045-6. [Epub ahead of print]79 102469
      Malaria blood stage parasites commit to either one of two distinct cellular fates while developing within erythrocytes of their mammalian host: they either undergo another round of asexual replication or they differentiate into nonreplicative transmissible gametocytes. Depending on the state of infection, either path may support or impair the ultimate goal of human-to-human transmission via the mosquito vector. Malaria parasites therefore evolved strategies to control investments into asexual proliferation versus gametocyte formation. Recent work provided fascinating molecular insight into shared and unique mechanisms underlying the control and environmental modulation of sexual commitment in the two most widely studied malaria parasite species, Plasmodium falciparum and P. berghei. With this review, we aim at placing these findings into a comparative mechanistic context.
  12. Trends Biochem Sci. 2024 Apr 01. pii: S0968-0004(24)00065-3. [Epub ahead of print]
      Autophagy - a highly regulated intracellular degradation process - is pivotal in maintaining cellular homeostasis. Liquid-liquid phase separation (LLPS) is a fundamental mechanism regulating the formation and function of membrane-less compartments. Recent research has unveiled connections between LLPS and autophagy, suggesting that phase separation events may orchestrate the spatiotemporal organization of autophagic machinery and cargo sequestration. The Unc-51-like kinase (ULK)/autophagy-related 1 (Atg1) family of proteins is best known for its regulatory role in initiating autophagy, but there is growing evidence that the functional spectrum of ULK/Atg1 extends beyond autophagy regulation. In this review, we explore the spatial and temporal regulation of the ULK/Atg1 family of kinases, focusing on their recruitment to LLPS-driven compartments, and highlighting their multifaceted functions beyond their traditional role.
    Keywords:  focal adhesion (FA); intrinsically disordered region (IDR); liquid–liquid phase separation (LLPS); pre-autophagosomal structure (PAS); stress granule (SG)
  13. Trends Endocrinol Metab. 2024 Feb;pii: S1043-2760(23)00214-X. [Epub ahead of print]35(2): 125-141
      Intermittent short-term fasting (ISTF) and ketogenic diets (KDs) exert overlapping but not identical effects on cell metabolism, function, and resilience. Whereas health benefits of KD are largely mediated by the ketone bodies (KBs), ISTF engages additional adaptive physiological responses. KDs act mainly through inhibition of histone deacetylases (HDACs), reduction of oxidative stress, improvement of mitochondria efficiency, and control of inflammation. Mechanisms of action of ISTF include stimulation of autophagy, increased insulin and leptin sensitivity, activation of AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), inhibition of the mechanistic target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, bolstering mitochondrial resilience, and suppression of oxidative stress and inflammation. Frequent switching between ketogenic and nonketogenic states may optimize health by increasing stress resistance, while also enhancing cell plasticity and functionality.
    Keywords:  brain; fasting; ketogenic diet; ketone bodies; mitochondria; time-restricted eating
  14. Cell Rep. 2024 Apr 02. pii: S2211-1247(24)00340-1. [Epub ahead of print]43(4): 114012
      Plasmodium falciparum is a human-adapted apicomplexan parasite that causes the most dangerous form of malaria. P. falciparum cysteine-rich protective antigen (PfCyRPA) is an invasion complex protein essential for erythrocyte invasion. The precise role of PfCyRPA in this process has not been resolved. Here, we show that PfCyRPA is a lectin targeting glycans terminating with α2-6-linked N-acetylneuraminic acid (Neu5Ac). PfCyRPA has a >50-fold binding preference for human, α2-6-linked Neu5Ac over non-human, α2-6-linked N-glycolylneuraminic acid. PfCyRPA lectin sites were predicted by molecular modeling and validated by mutagenesis studies. Transgenic parasite lines expressing endogenous PfCyRPA with single amino acid exchange mutants indicated that the lectin activity of PfCyRPA has an important role in parasite invasion. Blocking PfCyRPA lectin activity with small molecules or with lectin-site-specific monoclonal antibodies can inhibit blood-stage parasite multiplication. Therefore, targeting PfCyRPA lectin activity with drugs, immunotherapy, or a vaccine-primed immune response is a promising strategy to prevent and treat malaria.
    Keywords:  CP: Microbiology; N-acetylneuraminic acid; Plasmodium falciparum cysteine-rich protective antigen; erythrocyte invasion; glycan array; lectin; malaria
  15. bioRxiv. 2024 Mar 20. pii: 2024.03.20.586011. [Epub ahead of print]
      Glucose has long been considered the primary fuel source for the brain. However, glucose levels fluctuate in the brain during sleep, intense circuit activity, or dietary restrictions, posing significant metabolic stress. Here, we demonstrate that the mammalian brain utilizes pyruvate as a fuel source, and pyruvate can support neuronal viability in the absence of glucose. Nerve terminals are sites of metabolic vulnerability within a neuron and we show that mitochondrial pyruvate uptake is a critical step in oxidative ATP production in hippocampal terminals. We find that the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier is post-translationally modified by lysine acetylation which in turn modulates mitochondrial pyruvate uptake. Importantly, our data reveal that the mitochondrial pyruvate carrier regulates distinct steps in synaptic transmission, namely, the spatiotemporal pattern of synaptic vesicle release and the efficiency of vesicle retrieval, functions that have profound implications for synaptic plasticity. In summary, we identify pyruvate as a potent neuronal fuel and mitochondrial pyruvate uptake as a critical node for the metabolic control of synaptic transmission in hippocampal terminals.HIGHLIGHTS: Serum pyruvate is taken up by the brain and efficiently oxidized in the TCA cycle.The mitochondrial pyruvate carrier (MPC) is essential for presynaptic energy metabolism.Acetylation of the MPC complex modulates mitochondrial pyruvate uptake.MPC activity regulates the release and retrieval of synaptic vesicles in nerve terminals.
  16. J Med Chem. 2024 Apr 02.
      CDK9 is a cyclin-dependent kinase that plays pivotal roles in multiple cellular functions including gene transcription, cell cycle regulation, DNA damage repair, and cellular differentiation. Targeting CDK9 is considered an attractive strategy for antitumor therapy, especially for leukemia and lymphoma. Several potent small molecule inhibitors, exemplified by TG02 (4), have progressed to clinical trials. However, many of them face challenges such as low clinical efficacy and multiple adverse reactions and may necessitate the exploration of novel strategies to lead to success in the clinic. In this perspective, we present a comprehensive overview of the structural characteristics, biological functions, and preclinical status of CDK9 inhibitors. Our focus extends to various types of inhibitors, including pan-inhibitors, selective inhibitors, dual-target inhibitors, degraders, PPI inhibitors, and natural products. The discussion encompasses chemical structures, structure-activity relationships (SARs), biological activities, selectivity, and therapeutic potential, providing detailed insight into the diverse landscape of CDK9 inhibitors.