In Vitro Characterization of Protein Effector Export in the Bradyzoite Stage of Toxoplasma gondii.

Research paper by Joshua J Mayoral, Peter P Shamamian, Louis M LM Weiss

Indexed on: 12 Mar '20Published on: 12 Mar '20Published in: mBio


The ubiquitous parasite exhibits an impressive ability to maintain chronic infection of its host for prolonged periods. Despite this, little is known regarding whether and how bradyzoites, a quasi-dormant life stage residing within intracellular cysts, manipulate the host cell to maintain persistent infection. A previous proteomic study of the cyst wall, an amorphous layer of proteins that forms underneath the cyst membrane, identified MYR1 as a putative cyst wall protein Because MYR1 is known to be involved in the translocation of parasite-derived effector proteins into the host cell, we sought to determine whether parasites transitioning toward the bradyzoite life stage retain the capacity to translocate proteins via this pathway. By epitope tagging the endogenous loci of four known effectors that translocate from the parasitophorous vacuole into the host cell nucleus, we show, by immunofluorescence assays, that most effectors accumulate in the host nucleus at early but not late time points after infection, during the tachyzoite-to-bradyzoite transition and when parasites further along the bradyzoite differentiation continuum invade a new host cell. We demonstrate that the suppression of interferon gamma signaling, which was previously shown to be mediated by the effector TgIST, also occurs in the context of prolonged infection with bradyzoites and that TgIST export is a process that occurs beyond the early stages of host cell infection. These findings have important implications regarding how this highly successful parasite maintains persistent infection of its host. bradyzoites persist within tissue cysts and are refractory to current treatments, serving as a reservoir for acute complications in settings of compromised immunity. Much remains to be understood regarding how this life stage successfully establishes and maintains persistent infection. In this study, we investigated whether the export of parasite effector proteins into the host cell occurs during the development of tissue cysts. We quantified the presence of four previously described effectors in host cell nuclei at different time points after bradyzoite differentiation and found that they accumulated largely during the early stages of infection. Despite a decline in nuclear accumulation, we found that one of these effectors still mediated its function after prolonged infection with bradyzoites, and we provide evidence that this effector is exported beyond early infection stages. These findings suggest that effector export from within developing tissue cysts provides one potential mechanism by which this parasite achieves chronic infection. Copyright © 2020 Mayoral et al.