Indexed on: 11 Aug '04Published on: 11 Aug '04Published in: Eukaryotic cell
Parasite differentiation is commonly associated with transitions between complex life cycle stages and with long-term persistence in the host, and it is therefore critical for pathogenesis. In the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, interconversion between rapidly growing tachyzoites and latent encysted bradyzoites is accompanied by numerous morphological and metabolic adaptations. In order to explore early cell biological events associated with this differentiation process, we have exploited fluorescent reporter proteins targeted to various subcellular locations. Combining these markers with efficient in vitro differentiation and time-lapse video microscopy provides a dynamic view of bradyzoite development in living cultures, demonstrating subcellular reorganization, maintenance of the mitochondrion, and missegregation of the apicoplast. Bradyzoites divide asynchronously, using both endodyogeny and endopolygeny, and are highly motile both within and between host cells. Cysts are able to proliferate without passing through an intermediate tachyzoite stage, via both the migration of free bradyzoites and the fission of bradyzoite cysts, suggesting a mechanism for dissemination during chronic infection.