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  • Coimmunoprecipitation with MYR1 Identifies Three Additional Proteins within the Toxoplasma gondii Parasitophorous Vacuole Required for Translocation of Dense Granule Effectors into Host Cells. mSphere Cygan, A. M., Theisen, T. C., Mendoza, A. G., Marino, N. D., Panas, M. W., Boothroyd, J. C. 2020; 5 (1)


    Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous, intracellular protozoan that extensively modifies infected host cells through secreted effector proteins. Many such effectors must be translocated across the parasitophorous vacuole (PV), in which the parasites replicate, ultimately ending up in the host cytosol or nucleus. This translocation has previously been shown to be dependent on five parasite proteins: MYR1, MYR2, MYR3, ROP17, and ASP5. We report here the identification of several MYR1-interacting and novel PV-localized proteins via affinity purification of MYR1, including TGGT1_211460 (dubbed MYR4), TGGT1_204340 (dubbed GRA54), and TGGT1_270320 (PPM3C). Further, we show that three of the MYR1-interacting proteins, GRA44, GRA45, and MYR4, are essential for the translocation of the Toxoplasma effector protein GRA16 and for the upregulation of human c-Myc and cyclin E1 in infected cells. GRA44 and GRA45 contain ASP5 processing motifs, but like MYR1, processing at these sites appears to be nonessential for their role in protein translocation. These results expand our understanding of the mechanism of effector translocation in Toxoplasma and indicate that the process is highly complex and dependent on at least eight discrete proteins.IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma is an extremely successful intracellular parasite and important human pathogen. Upon infection of a new cell, Toxoplasma establishes a replicative vacuole and translocates parasite effectors across this vacuole to function from the host cytosol and nucleus. These effectors play a key role in parasite virulence. The work reported here newly identifies three parasite proteins that are necessary for protein translocation into the host cell. These results significantly increase our knowledge of the molecular players involved in protein translocation in Toxoplasma-infected cells and provide additional potential drug targets.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mSphere.00858-19

    View details for PubMedID 32075880

  • Translocation of effector proteins into host cells by Toxoplasma gondii. Current opinion in microbiology Rastogi, S., Cygan, A. M., Boothroyd, J. C. 2019; 52: 130–38


    The Apicomplexan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, is an obligate intracellular organism that must co-opt its host cell to survive. To this end, Toxoplasma parasites introduce a suite of effector proteins from two secretory compartments called rhoptries and dense granules into the host cells. Once inside, these effectors extensively modify the host cell to facilitate parasite penetration, replication and persistence. In this review, we summarize the most recent advances in current understanding of effector translocation from Toxoplasma's rhoptry and dense granule organelles into the host cell, with comparisons to Plasmodium spp. for broader context.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.mib.2019.07.002

    View details for PubMedID 31446366

  • Toxoplasma Controls Host Cyclin E Expression through the Use of a Novel MYR1-Dependent Effector Protein, HCE1. mBio Panas, M. W., Naor, A., Cygan, A. M., Boothroyd, J. C. 2019; 10 (2)


    Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that establishes a favorable environment in the host cells in which it replicates. We have previously reported that it uses MYR-dependent translocation of dense granule proteins to elicit a key set of host responses related to the cell cycle, specifically, E2F transcription factor targets, including cyclin E. We report here the identification of a novel Toxoplasma effector protein that is exported from the parasitophorous vacuole in a MYR1-dependent manner and localizes to the host's nucleus. Parasites lacking this inducer of host cyclin E (HCE1) are unable to modulate E2F transcription factor target genes and exhibit a substantial growth defect. Immunoprecipitation of HCE1 from infected host cells showed that HCE1 efficiently binds elements of the cyclin E regulatory complex, namely, DP1 and its partners E2F3 and E2F4. Expression of HCE1 in Neospora caninum, or in uninfected human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs), showed localization of the expressed protein to the host nuclei and strong cyclin E upregulation. Thus, HCE1 is a novel effector protein that is necessary and sufficient to impact the E2F axis of transcription, resulting in co-opting of host functions to the advantage of Toxoplasma IMPORTANCE Like most Apicomplexan parasites, Toxoplasma gondii has the remarkable ability to invade and establish a replicative niche within another eukaryotic cell, in this case, any of a large number of cell types in almost any warm-blooded animals. Part of the process of establishing this niche is the export of effector proteins to co-opt host cell functions in favor of the parasite. Here we identify a novel effector protein, HCE1, that the parasites export into the nucleus of human cells, where it modulates the expression of multiple genes, including the gene encoding cyclin E, one of the most crucial proteins involved in controlling when and whether a human cell divides. We show that HCE1 works through binding to specific transcription factors, namely, E2F3, E2F4, and DP1, that normally carefully regulate these all-important pathways. This represents a new way in which these consummately efficient infectious agents co-opt the human cells that they so efficiently grow within.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mBio.00674-19

    View details for PubMedID 31040242

  • mRNA pseudouridylation affects RNA metabolism in the parasite Toxoplasma gondii RNA Nakamoto, M. A., Lovejoy, A. F., Cygan, A. M., Boothroyd, J. C. 2017; 23 (12): 1834–49


    RNA contains over 100 modified nucleotides that are created post-transcriptionally, among which pseudouridine (Ψ) is one of the most abundant. Although it was one of the first modifications discovered, the biological role of this modification is still not fully understood. Recently, we reported that a pseudouridine synthase (TgPUS1) is necessary for differentiation of the single-celled eukaryotic parasite Toxoplasma gondii from active to chronic infection. To better understand the biological role of pseudouridylation, we report here gel-based and deep-sequencing methods to identify TgPUS1-dependent Ψ's in Toxoplasma RNA, and the use of TgPUS1 mutants to examine the effect of this modification on mRNAs. In addition to identifying conserved sites of pseudouridylation in Toxoplasma rRNA, tRNA, and snRNA, we also report extensive pseudouridylation of Toxoplasma mRNAs, with the Ψ's being relatively depleted in the 3'-UTR but enriched at position 1 of codons. We show that many Ψ's in tRNA and mRNA are dependent on the action of TgPUS1 and that TgPUS1-dependent mRNA Ψ's are enriched in developmentally regulated transcripts. RNA-seq data obtained from wild-type and TgPUS1-mutant parasites shows that genes containing a TgPUS1-dependent Ψ are relatively more abundant in mutant parasites, while pulse/chase labeling of RNA with 4-thiouracil shows that mRNAs containing TgPUS1-dependent Ψ have a modest but statistically significant increase in half-life in the mutant parasites. These data are some of the first evidence suggesting that mRNA Ψ's play an important biological role.

    View details for PubMedID 28851751

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC5689004

  • MAF1b Binds the Host Cell MIB Complex To Mediate Mitochondrial Association. mSphere Kelly, F. D., Wei, B. M., Cygan, A. M., Parker, M. L., Boulanger, M. J., Boothroyd, J. C. 2017; 2 (3)


    Many diverse intracellular pathogens, such as Legionella pneumophila, Chlamydia psittaci, Encephalitozoon sp., and Toxoplasma gondii, manipulate and relocate host cell organelles, including mitochondria. Toxoplasma tachyzoites use a secreted protein, mitochondrial association factor 1b (MAF1b), to drive the association between the host mitochondria and the membrane of the parasitophorous vacuole, in which the parasites grow. The identity of the host partner in this interaction, however, has not previously been identified. By exogenously expressing tagged MAF1b in mouse embryonic fibroblasts, we were able to isolate host cell proteins that specifically interact with MAF1b. We then verified these interactions in the MAF1b-expressing fibroblasts, as well as in the context of parasite infection in human fibroblasts and HeLa cells. The results show that a host cell mitochondrial complex, the mitochondrial intermembrane space bridging (MIB) complex, specifically interacts with MAF1b. We further demonstrate that a version of MAF1b that is deficient in host-mitochondrial association does not efficiently coprecipitate the MIB complex. Validation of the importance of the MAF1b-MIB interaction came from showing that knockdown of two MIB complex components, MIC60 and SAM50, substantially reduces mitochondrial association with the parasitophorous vacuole membrane. This interaction between a secreted membrane-integral parasite protein and a membrane-bound complex of a host organelle represents the first instance of organelle relocalization in which both the host and pathogen molecules are known and provides the foundation for more detailed biochemical studies. IMPORTANCE Parasites interact intimately with their hosts, and the interactions shape both parties. The common human parasite Toxoplasma gondii replicates exclusively in a vacuole in a host cell and alters its host cell's environment through secreted proteins. One of these secreted proteins, MAF1b, acts to concentrate mitochondria around the parasite's vacuole, and this relocalization alters the host immune response. Many other intracellular pathogens also recruit host mitochondria, but the identities of the partners that mediate this interaction have not previously been described in any infection. Here, we show that Toxoplasma MAF1b binds to the multifunctional MIB protein complex on the host mitochondria. Reducing the levels of the proteins in this mitochondrial complex reduces the close association of host cell mitochondria and the parasite's vacuole. This work provides new insight into a key host-pathogen interaction and identifies possible targets for future therapeutic intervention as well as a more molecular understanding of important biology.

    View details for DOI 10.1128/mSphere.00183-17

    View details for PubMedID 28567444

  • Structure of the core ectodomain of the hepatitis C virus envelope glycoprotein 2 NATURE Khan, A., Whidby, J., Miller, M. T., Scarborough, H., Zatorski, A. V., Cygan, A., Price, A. A., Yost, S. A., Bohannon, C. D., Jacob, J., Grakoui, A., Marcotrigiano, J. 2014; 509 (7500): 381-+


    Hepatitis C virus (HCV) is a significant public health concern with approximately 160 million people infected worldwide. HCV infection often results in chronic hepatitis, liver cirrhosis and hepatocellular carcinoma. No vaccine is available and current therapies are effective against some, but not all, genotypes. HCV is an enveloped virus with two surface glycoproteins (E1 and E2). E2 binds to the host cell through interactions with scavenger receptor class B type I (SR-BI) and CD81, and serves as a target for neutralizing antibodies. Little is known about the molecular mechanism that mediates cell entry and membrane fusion, although E2 is predicted to be a class II viral fusion protein. Here we describe the structure of the E2 core domain in complex with an antigen-binding fragment (Fab) at 2.4 Å resolution. The E2 core has a compact, globular domain structure, consisting mostly of β-strands and random coil with two small α-helices. The strands are arranged in two, perpendicular sheets (A and B), which are held together by an extensive hydrophobic core and disulphide bonds. Sheet A has an IgG-like fold that is commonly found in viral and cellular proteins, whereas sheet B represents a novel fold. Solution-based studies demonstrate that the full-length E2 ectodomain has a similar globular architecture and does not undergo significant conformational or oligomeric rearrangements on exposure to low pH. Thus, the IgG-like fold is the only feature that E2 shares with class II membrane fusion proteins. These results provide unprecedented insights into HCV entry and will assist in developing an HCV vaccine and new inhibitors.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/nature13117

    View details for Web of Science ID 000336121200043

    View details for PubMedID 24553139

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4126800

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