Manipulation of Membrane Fusion by Toxoplasma gondii Secreted Invasion Proteins

Denton, Stephen
Winden, Rachel
The protozoan Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular pathogen of warm-blooded animals that can cause persistent infections of any nucleated cell of the host. T. gondii belongs to the phylum Apicomplexa along with closely related pathogens such as plasmodium species of human malaria, Eimeria, Babesia, and Theileria of livestock infections, and Cryptosporidium in humans, giving research benefits to both the health and agriculture fields. During the invasion of T. gondii, a single cell creates a niche for survival in the form of the unique organelle known as the parasitophorous vacuole composed of host plasma membranes. Subsequently, the parasite releases a consortium of proteinaceous virulence factors. In order to survive and replicate, the parasite needs to modify membrane fusion events to obtain nutrients and membrane from the host and to avoid destruction from autophagy. This project designed a high throughput protocol to test T. gondii virulence factors for specific activity to modulate membrane fusion and identified a T. gondii protein that resulted in a dosage-dependent higher rate of fusion.
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