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In vitro production of cat-restricted Toxoplasma pre-sexual stages


Abstract

Sexual reproduction of Toxoplasma gondii, confined to the felid gut, remains largely uncharted owing to ethical concerns regarding the use of cats as model organisms. Chromatin modifiers dictate the developmental fate of the parasite during its multistage life cycle, but their targeting to stage-specific cistromes is poorly described$^{1,2}$. Here we found that the transcription factors AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 operate during the tachyzoite stage, a hallmark of acute toxoplasmosis, to silence genes necessary for merozoites, a developmental stage critical for subsequent sexual commitment and transmission to the next host, including humans. Their conditional and simultaneous depletion leads to a marked change in the transcriptional program, promoting a full transition from tachyzoites to merozoites. These in vitro-cultured pre-gametes have unique protein markers and undergo typical asexual endopolygenic division cycles. In tachyzoites, AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 bind DNA as heterodimers at merozoite promoters and recruit MORC and HDAC3 (ref. $^{1}$), thereby limiting chromatin accessibility and transcription. Consequently, the commitment to merogony stems from a profound epigenetic rewiring orchestrated by AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2. Successful production of merozoites in vitro paves the way for future studies on Toxoplasma sexual development without the need for cat infections and holds promise for the development of therapies to prevent parasite transmission.

Abstract

Sexual reproduction of Toxoplasma gondii, confined to the felid gut, remains largely uncharted owing to ethical concerns regarding the use of cats as model organisms. Chromatin modifiers dictate the developmental fate of the parasite during its multistage life cycle, but their targeting to stage-specific cistromes is poorly described$^{1,2}$. Here we found that the transcription factors AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 operate during the tachyzoite stage, a hallmark of acute toxoplasmosis, to silence genes necessary for merozoites, a developmental stage critical for subsequent sexual commitment and transmission to the next host, including humans. Their conditional and simultaneous depletion leads to a marked change in the transcriptional program, promoting a full transition from tachyzoites to merozoites. These in vitro-cultured pre-gametes have unique protein markers and undergo typical asexual endopolygenic division cycles. In tachyzoites, AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 bind DNA as heterodimers at merozoite promoters and recruit MORC and HDAC3 (ref. $^{1}$), thereby limiting chromatin accessibility and transcription. Consequently, the commitment to merogony stems from a profound epigenetic rewiring orchestrated by AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2. Successful production of merozoites in vitro paves the way for future studies on Toxoplasma sexual development without the need for cat infections and holds promise for the development of therapies to prevent parasite transmission.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:05 Vetsuisse Faculty > Veterinärwissenschaftliches Institut > Institute of Parasitology
04 Faculty of Medicine > Institute of Parasitology
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
610 Medicine & health
600 Technology
Scopus Subject Areas:Health Sciences > Multidisciplinary
Uncontrolled Keywords:Multidisciplinary
Language:English
Date:11 January 2024
Deposited On:06 Feb 2024 16:17
Last Modified:30 Jun 2024 01:38
Publisher:Nature Publishing Group
ISSN:0028-0836
OA Status:Hybrid
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06821-y
PubMed ID:38093015
  • Content: Published Version
  • Language: English
  • Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0)