Autophagy is a main defense strategy by which infected host cells can virtually induce the killing of parasite, including Toxoplasma gondii. However, the regulatory mechanisms of autophagy in T. gondii-infected nonhematopoietic cells are still unknown. Emerging evidence indicates that CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein β (C/EBP β) is associated with the regulation of autophagy. Herein, we hypothesized that C/EBP β plays roles in inducing autophagy in nonhematopoietic cells. Expression of C/EBP β was aberrantly regulated in endothelial cells and retinal pigment epithelial cells challenged by T. gondii. Inhibition of C/EBP β reduced the killing of T. gondii in nonhematopoietic cells, whereas C/EBP β overexpression resulted in the enhancement of killing of T. gondii as well as the increase in autophagy in infected cells. Furthermore, the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) activation was found to be reduced by C/EBP β overexpression, but increased by C/EBP β inhibition. The increase in T. gondii killing induced by C/EBP β overexpression was blocked by the mTOR activator phosphatidic acid and was increased by the inhibitor AZD8055. In conclusion, we demonstrate that C/EBP β expression is increased in nonhematopoietic cells infected by T. gondii, resulting in the activation of autophagy in host cells by inhibiting mTOR pathway.
C/EBP β; T. gondii; autophagy; killing; mTOR; nonhematopoietic cells
Bradyzoite differentiation is marked by major changes in gene expression resulting in a parasite that expresses a new repertoire of surface antigens hidden inside a modified parasitophorous vacuole called the tissue cyst. The factors that control this important life cycle transition are not well understood. Here we describe an important Toxoplasma repressor mechanism controlling bradyzoite differentiation that operates exclusively in the tachyzoite stage. The ApiAP2 factor, AP2IV-4, is a nuclear factor dynamically expressed in late S phase through mitosis/cytokinesis of the tachyzoite cell cycle and absent from the bradyzoite. Remarkably, deletion of the AP2IV-4 locus resulted in the increased expression of bradyzoite mRNAs in replicating tachyzoites and in two different genetic lineages, we confirmed the misexpression of tissue cyst wall components (e.g. BPK1, MCP4, CST1) and the bradyzoite surface antigen SRS9 in the tachyzoite stage. In the murine animal model, the loss of AP2IV-4 had profound biological consequences. Prugniaud strain parasites lacking AP2IV-4 were unable to form tissue cysts in brain tissue and the absence of this factor also recruited a potent immune response characterized by increases inflammatory monocytes, IFN-γ and higher numbers of both CD8+ and CD4+ T-cells. Altogether these results indicate that suppression of bradyzoite antigens by AP2IV-4 during acute infection is required for Toxoplasma to establish a chronic infection in the immune-competent host.
Toxoplasma kinase ROP18 is a key molecule responsible for the virulence of Toxoplasma gondii; however, the mechanisms by which ROP18 exerts parasite virulence via interaction with host proteins remain limited to a small number of identified substrates. To identify a broader array of ROP18 substrates we successfully purified bioactive mature ROP18 and used it to probe a human proteome array. Sixty-eight new putative host targets were identified. Functional annotation analysis suggested that these proteins have a variety of functions including metabolic process, kinase activity and phosphorylation, cell growth, apoptosis and cell death, and immunity, indicating a pleiotropic role of ROP18 kinase. Among these proteins, four candidates, p53, p38, UBE2N, and Smad1 were further validated. We demonstrated that ROP18 targets p53, p38, UBE2N, and Smad1 for degradation. Importantly, we demonstrated that ROP18 phosphorylates Smad1 Ser187 to trigger its proteasome-dependent degradation. Further functional characterization of the substrates of ROP18 may enhance understanding of the pathogenesis of Toxoplasma infection and providing new therapeutic targets. Similar strategies could be used to identify novel host targets for other microbial kinases functioning at the pathogen-host interface.
HIV-infected patients may present an unforeseen clinical worsening after initiating antiretroviral therapy known as immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome (IRIS). This syndrome is characterized by a heightened inflammatory response toward infectious or non-infectious triggers, and it may affect different organs. Diagnosis of IRIS involving the central nervous system (CNS-IRIS) is challenging due to heterogeneous manifestations, absence of biomarkers to identify this condition, risk of long-term sequelae and high mortality. Hence, a deeper knowledge of CNS-IRIS pathogenesis is needed.
A 37-year-old man was diagnosed with AIDS and cerebral toxoplasmosis. Anti-toxoplasma treatment was initiated immediately, followed by active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) 1 month later. At 2 months of HAART, he presented with progressive hyposensitivity of the right lower limb associated with brain and dorsal spinal cord lesions, compatible with paradoxical toxoplasmosis-associated CNS-IRIS, a condition with very few reported cases. A stereotactic biopsy was planned but was postponed based on its inherent risks. Patient showed clinical improvement with no requirement of corticosteroid therapy. Routine laboratorial analysis was complemented with longitudinal evaluation of blood T cell subsets at 0, 1, 2, 3 and 6 months upon HAART initiation. A control group composed by 9 HIV-infected patients from the same hospital but with no IRIS was analysed for comparison. The CNS-IRIS patient showed lower percentage of memory CD4+ T cells and higher percentage of activated CD4+ T cells at HAART initiation. The percentage of memory CD4+ T cells drastically increased at 1 month after HAART initiation and became higher in comparison to the control group until clinical recovery onset; the percentage of memory CD8+ T cells was consistently lower throughout follow-up. Interestingly, the percentage of regulatory T cells (Treg) on the CNS-IRIS patient reached a minimum around 1 month before symptoms onset.
Although both stereotactic biopsies and steroid therapy might be of use in CNS-IRIS cases and should be considered for these patients, they might be unnecessary to achieve clinical improvement as shown in this case. Immunological characterization of more CNS-IRIS cases is essential to shed some light on the pathogenesis of this condition.
Human immunodeficiency virus; Immune reconstitution inflammatory syndrome; Regulatory T cells; T cell subsets; Toxoplasmosis
While postnatal toxoplasmosis in immune-competent patients is generally considered a self-limiting and mild illness, it has been associated with a variety of more severe clinical manifestations. The causal relation with some manifestations, e.g. myocarditis, has been microbiologically proven, but this is not unequivocally so for other reported associations, such as with epilepsy. We aimed to systematically assess causality between postnatal toxoplasmosis and epilepsy in immune-competent patients. A literature search was performed. The Bradford Hill criteria for causality were used to score selected articles for each component of causality. Using an arbitrary but defined scoring system, the maximal score was 15 points (13 for case reports). Of 704 articles, five case reports or series and five case-control studies were selected. The strongest evidence for a causal relation was provided by two case reports and one case-control study, with a maximal causality score of, respectively, 9/13, 10/13 and 10/15. The remaining studies had a median causality score of 7 (range 5-9). No selection bias was identified, but 6/10 studies contained potential confounders (it was unsure whether the infection was pre- or postnatal acquired, or immunodeficiency was not specifically excluded). Based on the evaluation of the available literature, although scanty and of limited quality, a causal relationship between postnatal toxoplasmosis and epilepsy seems possible. More definite proof requires further research, e.g. by performing Toxoplasma serology in all de novo epilepsy cases.
Parasitic infections remain one of the most pressing global health concerns of our day, affecting billions of people and producing unsustainable economic burdens. The rise of drug-resistant parasites has created an urgent need to study their biology in hopes of uncovering new potential drug targets. It has been established that disrupting gene expression by interfering with lysine acetylation is detrimental to survival of apicomplexan (Toxoplasma gondii and Plasmodium spp.) and kinetoplastid (Leishmania spp. and Trypanosoma spp.) parasites. As "readers" of lysine acetylation, bromodomain proteins have emerged as key gene expression regulators and a promising new class of drug target. Here we review recent studies that demonstrate the essential roles played by bromodomain-containing proteins in parasite viability, invasion, and stage switching and present work showing the efficacy of bromodomain inhibitors as novel antiparasitic agents. In addition, we performed a phylogenetic analysis of bromodomain proteins in representative pathogens, some of which possess unique features that may be specific to parasite processes and useful in future drug development.
SUMOylation is a reversible post translational modification of proteins that regulates protein stabilization, nucleocytoplasmic transport and protein-protein interactions. Several viruses and bacteria modulate host SUMOylation machinery for efficient infection. Plasmodium sporozoites are infective forms of malaria parasite that infect hepatocytes and transforms into exoerythrocytic forms (EEFs). Here we show that, during EEF development, the distribution of SUMOylated proteins in host cell nuclei was significantly reduced and expression of the SUMOylation enzymes was downregulated. Plasmodium EEFs destabilized the host cytoplasmic protein SMAD4 by inhibiting its SUMOylation. SUMO1 overexpression was detrimental to EEF growth and insufficiency of the only conjugating enzyme Ubc9/E2 promoted EEF growth. The expression of genes involved in suppression of host cell defense pathways during infection was reversed during SUMO1 overexpression, as revealed by transcriptomic analysis. The inhibition of host cell SUMOylation was also observed in Toxoplasma. We provide a hitherto unknown mechanism of regulating host gene expression through altering host SUMOylation by Apicomplexan parasites.
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Toxoplasma gondii, a ubiquitous intracellular parasite, has a strong tropism for the brain tissue, where it forms intracellular cysts within the neurons and glial cells, establishing a chronic infection. Although latent toxoplasmosis is generally assumed to be asymptomatic in immunocompetent individuals, it is now clear that it can induce behavioral manipulations in mice and infected humans. Moreover, a strong relation has emerged in recent years between toxoplasmosis and psychiatric disorders. The link between T. gondii and schizophrenia has been the most widely documented; however, a significant association with bipolar disorder (BD) and suicidal/aggressive behaviors has also been detected. T. gondii may play a role in the etiopathogenesis of psychiatric disorders affecting neurotransmitters, especially dopamine, that are implicated in the emergence of psychosis and behavioral Toxoplasma-induced abnormalities, and inducing brain inflammation by the direct stimulation of inflammatory cytokines in the central nervous system. Besides this, there is increasing evidence for a prominent role of immune dysregulation in psychosis and BD. The aim of this review is to describe recent evidence suggesting a link between Toxoplasma gondii and BD, focusing on the interaction between immune responses and this infectious agent in the etiopathogenesis of psychiatric symptoms.
The protozoan intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii forms latent cysts in the central nervous system (CNS) and persists for the lifetime of the host. This cyst is cloaked with a glycosylated structure called the cyst wall. Previously, we demonstrated that a mucin-like glycoprotein, CST1, localizes to the cyst wall and confers structural rigidity on brain cysts in a mucin-like domain-dependent manner. The mucin-like domain of CST1 is composed of 20 units of threonine-rich tandem repeats that are O-GalNAc glycosylated. A family of enzymes termed polypeptide N-acetylgalactosaminyltransferases (ppGalNAc-Ts) initiates O-GalNAc glycosylation. To identify which isoforms of ppGalNAc-Ts are responsible for the glycosylation of the CST1 mucin-like domain and to evaluate the function of each ppGalNAc-T in the overall glycosylation of the cyst wall, all five ppGalNAc-T isoforms were deleted individually from the T. gondii genome. The ppGalNAc-T2 and -T3 deletion mutants produced various glycosylation defects on the cyst wall, implying that many cyst wall glycoproteins are glycosylated by T2 and T3. Both T2 and T3 glycosylate the CST1 mucin-like domain, and this glycosylation is necessary for CST1 to confer structural rigidity on the cyst wall. We established that T2 is required for the initial glycosylation of the mucin-like domain and that T3 is responsible for the sequential glycosylation on neighboring acceptor sites, demonstrating hierarchical glycosylation by two distinct initiating and filling-in ppGalNAc-Ts in an intact organism.
Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that infects a third of the world's population. It can cause severe congenital disease and devastating encephalitis in immunocompromised individuals. We identified two glycosyltransferases, ppGalNAc-T2 and -T3, which are responsible for glycosylating cyst wall proteins in a hierarchical fashion. This glycosylation confers structural rigidity on the brain cyst. Our studies provide new insights into the mechanisms of O-GalNAc glycosylation in T. gondii.
Activation of the purinergic P2X7 receptor by extracellular ATP (eATP) potentiates proinflammatory responses during infections by intracellular pathogens. Extracellular ATP triggers an antimicrobial response in macrophages infected with Toxoplasma gondii in vitro, suggesting that purinergic signaling may stimulate host defense mechanisms against toxoplasmosis. Here, we provide in vivo evidence in support of this hypothesis, by showing that P2X7-/- mice are more susceptible than P2X7+/+ mice to acute infection by the RH strain of T. gondii, and that this phenomenon is associated with a deficient proinflammatory response. Four days post-infection, peritoneal washes from infected P2X7-/- mice had no or little increase in the levels of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-12, IL-1β, IFN-γ, and TNF-α, whose levels increased markedly in samples from infected P2X7+/+ mice. Infected P2X7-/- mice displayed an increase in organ weight and histological alterations in some of the 'shock organs' in toxoplasmosis - the liver, spleen and mesenteric lymph nodes. The liver of infected P2X7-/- mice had smaller granulomas, but increased parasite load/granuloma. Our results confirm that the P2X7 receptor is involved in containing T. gondii spread in vivo, by stimulating inflammation.
Physical exercise has been implicated in several immunophysiological improvements, particularly during the aging process, when an immunocompromised status could be established. Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite that causes a widespread opportunistic infection, which may present severe consequences, mainly to the fetus and immunocompromised patients. It is estimated that one-third of the human population worldwide has been infected by this parasite, being the reactivation during immunesenescence an unexplored public health issue. The major purpose of the present study was to observe the immunophysiological differences between exercised vs. sedentary C57BL/6 male mice that have been experimentally infected by T. gondii. In the first set of experiments, the animals were infected after exercising and three groups were set up: experimental groups-infected sedentary (IS, n = 6); infected exercised (IEx, n = 6) and control group-non-infected sedentary (NIS, n = 6). When stimulated in vitro by T. gondii-soluble tachyzoite antigen, it was found that splenocytes from exercised group produced higher levels of IFN-γ, as well as of IFN-γ/IL-10 ratios in comparison with splenocytes from sedentary animals (P < 0.001). However, it was not found significant differences concerning quantification of T. gondii genomic DNA by qRT-PCR and immunohistochemistry analysis in brain cysts from both group of animals (P > 0.05). In order to further investigate the consequences of these data for the host, a second set of experiments was performed, when the animals were infected before exercising and four groups of animals were established for comparison purpose, as follows: experimental groups-infected sedentary (IS, n = 7); infected exercised (IEx, n = 6) and control groups-non-infected sedentary (NIS, n = 6) and non-infected exercised (NIEx, n = 6). It was found significant differences in the survival rates of the exercised group the animals, as they survived longer than sedentary groups (P = 0.0005). In both sets of experiments, mice have been submitted to moderate exercises: aerobic (14 m/min; 3 x/week) and strength (60-80% of one maximum repetition; 2 x/week). Overall, our findings are showing that the aerobic and strength exercises are able to modulate immune response against T. gondii infection, being these immunological features beneficial to the host.
Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite, possesses the remarkable ability to co-opt host cell machinery in order to maintain its intracellular survival. This parasite can modulate signaling pathways of its host through the secretion of polymorphic effector proteins localized in the rhoptry and dense granule organelles. One of such effectors is T. gondii type II-specific dense granule protein 15, TgGRA15, which activates NF-κB pathway. The aim of the present study was to identify the host interaction partner proteins of TgGRA15.
We screened a yeast two-hybrid mouse cDNA library using TgGRA15 as the bait. TgGRA15 (PRU strain, Type II) was cloned into the pGBKT7 vector and expressed in the Y2HGold yeast strain. Then, the bait protein expression was validated by western blotting analysis, followed by auto-activation and toxicity tests in comparison with control (Y2HGold yeast strain transformed with empty pGBKT7 vector).
This screening led to the identification of mouse Luzp1 and AW209491 as host binding proteins that interact with TgGRA15. Luzp1 contains three nuclear localizing signals and is involved in regulating a subset of host non-coding RNA genes.
These findings reveal, for the first time, new host cell proteins interacting with TgGRA15. The identification of these cellular targets and the understanding of their contribution to the host-pathogen interaction may serve as the foundation for novel therapeutic and prevention strategies against T. gondii infection.