The Toxoplasma pseudokinase ROP5 forms complexes with ROP18 and ROP17 kinases that synergize to control acute virulence in mice.
ABSTRACT: Polymorphic rhoptry-secreted kinases (ROPs) are essential virulence factors of Toxoplasma gondii. In particular, the pseudokinase ROP5 is the major determinant of acute virulence in mice, but the underlying mechanisms are unclear. We developed a tandem affinity protein tagging and purification approach in T. gondii and used it to show that ROP5 complexes with the active kinases ROP18 and ROP17. Biochemical analyses indicate that ROP18 and ROP17 have evolved to target adjacent and essential threonine residues in switch region I of immunity-related guanosine triphosphatases (GTPases) (IRGs), a family of host defense molecules that function to control intracellular pathogens. The combined activities of ROP17 and ROP18 contribute to avoidance of IRG recruitment to the intracellular T. gondii-containing vacuole, thus protecting the parasite from clearance in interferon-activated macrophages. These studies reveal an intricate, multilayered parasite survival strategy involving pseudokinases that regulate multiple active kinase complexes to synergistically thwart innate immunity.
Project description:The Red Queen hypothesis proposes that there is an evolutionary arms race between host and pathogen. One possible example of such a phenomenon could be the recently discovered interaction between host defense proteins known as immunity-related GTPases (IRGs) and a family of rhoptry pseudokinases (ROP5) expressed by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. Mouse IRGs are encoded by an extensive and rapidly evolving family of over 20 genes. Similarly, the ROP5 family is highly polymorphic and consists of 4-10 genes, depending on the strain of Toxoplasma. IRGs are known to be avidly bound and functionally inactivated by ROP5 proteins, but the molecular basis of this interaction/inactivation has not previously been known. Here we show that ROP5 uses a highly polymorphic surface to bind adjacent to the nucleotide-binding domain of an IRG and that this produces a profound allosteric change in the IRG structure. This has two dramatic effects: 1) it prevents oligomerization of the IRG, and 2) it alters the orientation of two threonine residues that are targeted by the Toxoplasma Ser/Thr kinases, ROP17 and ROP18. ROP5s are highly specific in the IRGs that they will bind, and the fact that it is the most highly polymorphic surface of ROP5 that binds the IRG strongly supports the notion that these two protein families are co-evolving in a way predicted by the Red Queen hypothesis.
Project description:Secretory polymorphic serine/threonine kinases control pathogenesis of Toxoplasma gondii in the mouse. Genetic studies show that the pseudokinase ROP5 is essential for acute virulence, but do not reveal its mechanism of action. Here we demonstrate that ROP5 controls virulence by blocking IFN-? mediated clearance in activated macrophages. ROP5 was required for the catalytic activity of the active S/T kinase ROP18, which phosphorylates host immunity related GTPases (IRGs) and protects the parasite from clearance. ROP5 directly regulated activity of ROP18 in vitro, and both proteins were necessary to avoid IRG recruitment and clearance in macrophages. Clearance of both the ?rop5 and ?rop18 mutants was reversed in macrophages lacking Irgm3, which is required for IRG function, and the virulence defect was fully restored in Irgm3(-/-) mice. Our findings establish that the pseudokinase ROP5 controls the activity of ROP18, thereby blocking IRG mediated clearance in macrophages. Additionally, ROP5 has other functions that are also Irgm3 and IFN-? dependent, indicting it plays a general role in governing virulence factors that block immunity.
Project description:Ingestion of the obligate intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii causes an acute infection that leads to chronic infection of the host. To facilitate the acute phase of the infection, T. gondii manipulates the host response by secreting rhoptry organelle proteins (ROPs) into host cells during its invasion. A few key ROP proteins with signatures of kinases or pseudokinases (ROPKs) act as virulence factors that enhance parasite survival against host gamma interferon-stimulated innate immunity. However, the roles of these and other ROPK proteins in establishing chronic infection have not been tested. Here, we deleted 26 ROPK gene loci encoding 31 unique ROPK proteins of type II T. gondii and show that numerous ROPK proteins influence the development of chronic infection. Cyst burdens were increased in the ?rop16 knockout strain or moderately reduced in 11 ROPK knockout strains. In contrast, deletion of ROP5, ROP17, ROP18, ROP35, or ROP38/29/19 (ROP38, ROP29, and ROP19) severely reduced cyst burdens. ?rop5 and ?rop18 knockout strains were less resistant to host immunity-related GTPases (IRGs) and exhibited >100-fold-reduced virulence. ROP18 kinase activity and association with the parasitophorous vacuole membrane were necessary for resistance to host IRGs. The ?rop17 strain exhibited a >12-fold defect in virulence; however, virulence was not affected in the ?rop35 or ?rop38/29/19 strain. Resistance to host IRGs was not affected in the ?rop17, ?rop35, or ?rop38/29/19 strain. Collectively, these findings provide the first definitive evidence that the type II T. gondii ROPK proteome functions as virulence factors and facilitates additional mechanisms of host manipulation that are essential for chronic infection and transmission of T. gondiiReactivation of chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection in individuals with weakened immune systems causes severe toxoplasmosis. Existing treatments for toxoplasmosis are complicated by adverse reactions to chemotherapy. Understanding key parasite molecules required for chronic infection provides new insights into potential mechanisms that can interrupt parasite survival or persistence in the host. This study reveals that key secreted rhoptry molecules are used by the parasite to establish chronic infection of the host. Certain rhoptry proteins were found to be critical virulence factors that resist innate immunity, while other rhoptry proteins were found to influence chronic infection without affecting virulence. This study reveals that rhoptry proteins utilize multiple mechanisms of host manipulation to establish chronic infection of the host. Targeted disruption of parasite rhoptry proteins involved in these biological processes opens new avenues to interfere with chronic infection with the goal to either eliminate chronic infection or to prevent recrudescent infections.
Project description:The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii infects a wide variety of vertebrate species globally. Infection in most hosts causes a lifelong chronic infection and generates immunological memory responses that protect the host against new infections. In regions where the organism is endemic, multiple exposures to T. gondii likely occur with great frequency, yet little is known about the interaction between a chronically infected host and the parasite strains from these areas. A widely used model to explore secondary infection entails challenge of chronically infected or vaccinated mice with the highly virulent type I RH strain. Here, we show that although vaccinated or chronically infected C57BL/6 mice are protected against the type I RH strain, they are not protected against challenge with most strains prevalent in South America or another type I strain, GT1. Genetic and genomic analyses implicated the parasite-secreted rhoptry effectors ROP5 and ROP18, which antagonize the host's gamma interferon-induced immunity-regulated GTPases (IRGs), as primary requirements for virulence during secondary infection. ROP5 and ROP18 promoted parasite superinfection in the brains of challenged survivors. We hypothesize that superinfection may be an important mechanism to generate T. gondii strain diversity, simply because two parasite strains would be present in a single meal consumed by the feline definitive host. Superinfection may drive the genetic diversity of Toxoplasma strains in South America, where most isolates are IRG resistant, compared to North America, where most strains are IRG susceptible and are derived from a few clonal lineages. In summary, ROP5 and ROP18 promote Toxoplasma virulence during reinfection.Toxoplasma gondii is a widespread parasite of warm-blooded animals and currently infects one-third of the human population. A long-standing assumption in the field is that prior exposure to this parasite protects the host from subsequent reexposure, due to the generation of protective immunological memory. However, this assumption is based on clinical data and mouse models that analyze infections with strains common to Europe infections with strains common to Europe and North America. In contrast, we found that the majority of strains sampled from around the world, in particular those from South America, were able to kill or reinfect the brains of hosts previously exposed to T. gondii. The T. gondii virulence factors ROP5 and ROP18, which inhibit key host effectors that mediate parasite killing, were required for these phenotypes. We speculate that these results underpin clinical observations that pregnant women previously exposed to Toxoplasma can develop congenital infection upon reexposure to South American strains.
Project description:The obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii secretes effector proteins into the host cell that manipulate the immune response allowing it to establish a chronic infection. Crosses between the types I, II and III strains, which are prevalent in North America and Europe, have identified several secreted effectors that determine strain differences in mouse virulence. The polymorphic rhoptry protein kinase ROP18 was recently shown to determine the difference in virulence between type I and III strains by phosphorylating and inactivating the interferon-? (IFN?)-induced immunity-related GTPases (IRGs) that promote killing by disrupting the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) in murine cells. The polymorphic pseudokinase ROP5 determines strain differences in virulence through an unknown mechanism. Here we report that ROP18 can only inhibit accumulation of the IRGs on the PVM of strains that also express virulent ROP5 alleles. In contrast, specific ROP5 alleles can reduce IRG coating even in the absence of ROP18 expression and can directly interact with one or more IRGs. We further show that the allelic combination of ROP18 and ROP5 also determines IRG evasion and virulence of strains belonging to other lineages besides types I, II and III. However, neither ROP18 nor ROP5 markedly affect survival in IFN?-activated human cells, which lack the multitude of IRGs present in murine cells. These findings suggest that ROP18 and ROP5 have specifically evolved to block the IRGs and are unlikely to have effects in species that do not have the IRG system, such as humans.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii has evolved a number of strategies to evade immune responses in its many hosts. Previous genetic mapping of crosses between clonal type 1, 2, and 3 strains of T. gondii, which are prevalent in Europe and North America, identified two rhoptry proteins, ROP5 and ROP18, that function together to block innate immune mechanisms activated by interferon gamma (IFNg) in murine hosts. However, the contribution of these and other virulence factors in more genetically divergent South American strains is unknown. Here we utilized a cross between the intermediately virulent North American type 2 ME49 strain and the highly virulent South American type 10 VAND strain to map the genetic basis for differences in virulence in the mouse. Quantitative trait locus (QTL) analysis of this new cross identified one peak that spanned the ROP5 locus on chromosome XII. CRISPR-Cas9 mediated deletion of all copies of ROP5 in the VAND strain rendered it avirulent and complementation confirmed that ROP5 is the major virulence factor accounting for differences between type 2 and type 10 strains. To extend these observations to other virulent South American strains representing distinct genetic populations, we knocked out ROP5 in type 8 TgCtBr5 and type 4 TgCtBr18 strains, resulting in complete loss of virulence in both backgrounds. Consistent with this, polymorphisms that show strong signatures of positive selection in ROP5 were shown to correspond to regions known to interface with host immunity factors. Because ROP5 and ROP18 function together to resist innate immune mechanisms, and a significant interaction between them was identified in a two-locus scan, we also assessed the role of ROP18 in the virulence of South American strains. Deletion of ROP18 in South American type 4, 8, and 10 strains resulted in complete attenuation in contrast to a partial loss of virulence seen for ROP18 knockouts in previously described type 1 parasites. These data show that ROP5 and ROP18 are conserved virulence factors in genetically diverse strains from North and South America, suggesting they evolved to resist innate immune defenses in ancestral T. gondii strains, and they have subsequently diversified under positive selection.
Project description:The population structure of Toxoplasma gondii includes three highly prevalent clonal lineages referred to as types I, II, and III, which differ greatly in virulence in the mouse model. Previous studies have implicated a family of serine/threonine protein kinases found in rhoptries (ROPs) as important in mediating virulence differences between strain types. Here, we explored the genetic basis of differences in virulence between the highly virulent type I lineage and moderately virulent type II based on successful genetic cross between these lineages. Genome-wide association revealed that a single quantitative trait locus controls the dramatic difference in lethality between these strain types. Neither ROP16 nor ROP18, previously implicated in virulence of T. gondii, was found to contribute to differences between types I and II. Instead, the major virulence locus contained a tandem cluster of polymorphic alleles of ROP5, which showed similar protein expression between strains. ROP5 contains a conserved serine/threonine protein kinase domain that includes only part of the catalytic triad, and hence, all members are considered to be pseudokinases. Genetic disruption of the entire ROP5 locus in the type I lineage led to complete attenuation of acute virulence, and complementation with ROP5 restored lethality to WT levels. These findings reveal that a locus of polymorphic pseudokinases plays an important role in pathogenesis of toxoplasmosis in the mouse model.
Project description:In mice, avirulent strains (e.g. types II and III) of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii are restricted by the immunity-related GTPase (IRG) resistance system. Loading of IRG proteins onto the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (PVM) is required for vacuolar rupture resulting in parasite clearance. In virulent strain (e.g. type I) infections, polymorphic effector proteins ROP5 and ROP18 cooperate to phosphorylate and thereby inactivate mouse IRG proteins to preserve PVM integrity. In this study, we confirmed the dense granule protein GRA7 as an additional component of the ROP5/ROP18 kinase complex and identified GRA7 association with the PVM by direct binding to ROP5. The absence of GRA7 results in reduced phosphorylation of Irga6 correlated with increased vacuolar IRG protein amounts and attenuated virulence. Earlier work identified additional IRG proteins as targets of T. gondii ROP18 kinase. We show that the only specific target of ROP18 among IRG proteins is in fact Irga6. Similarly, we demonstrate that GRA7 is strictly an Irga6-specific virulence effector. This identifies T. gondii GRA7 as a regulator for ROP18-specific inactivation of Irga6. The structural diversity of the IRG proteins implies that certain family members constitute additional specific targets for other yet unknown T. gondii virulence effectors.
Project description:The ability of mice to resist infection with the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, depends in large part on the function of members of a complex family of atypical large GTPases, the interferon-gamma-inducible immunity-related GTPases (IRG proteins). Nevertheless, some strains of T. gondii are highly virulent for mice because, as recently shown, they secrete a polymorphic protein kinase, ROP18, from the rhoptries into the host cell cytosol at the moment of cell invasion. Depending on the allele, ROP18 can act as a virulence factor for T. gondii by phosphorylating and thereby inactivating mouse IRG proteins. In this article we show that IRG proteins interact not only with ROP18, but also strongly with the products of another polymorphic locus, ROP5, already implicated as a major virulence factor from genetic crosses, but whose function has previously been a complete mystery. ROP5 proteins are members of the same protein family as ROP18 kinases but are pseudokinases by sequence, structure, and function. We show by a combination of genetic and biochemical approaches that ROP5 proteins act as essential co-factors for ROP18 and present evidence that they work by enforcing an inactive GDP-dependent conformation on the IRG target protein. By doing so they prevent GTP-dependent activation and simultaneously expose the target threonines on the switch I loop for phosphorylation by ROP18, resulting in permanent inactivation of the protein. This represents a novel mechanism in which a pseudokinase facilitates the phosphorylation of a target by a partner kinase by preparing the substrate for phosphorylation, rather than by upregulation of the activity of the kinase itself.
Project description:The population structure of Toxoplasma gondii includes three highly prevalent clonal lineages, types I, II, and III, which differ greatly in virulence in the mouse model. Previous studies have implicated a family of serine threonine protein kinases found in rhoptries (ROPs) as important in mediating virulence differences between types I vs. III and II vs. III. Here, we explored the genetic basis of differences in virulence between the highly virulent type I lineage and moderately virulent type II based on a new genetic cross and linkage mapping. Genome-wide association revealed a single quantitative trait locus controls the > 4 log difference in lethality between these strains. Neither ROP16 nor ROP18, previously implicated in virulence differences in T. gondii, were found to contribute to differences between types I and II. Instead, the major virulence locus contained a cluster of pseudokinases denoted as rhoptry protein 5 (ROP5); this locus contains a tandem cluster of polymorphic alleles that differed in expression levels between strains. ROP5 alleles contained only part of the catalytic triad of canonical S/T kinases, and consistent with this they lack demonstrable kinase activity in vitro. Genetic disruption of the rop5 locus in the type I lineage lead to a > 5 log increase in the lethal dose, and surviving mice developed lasting immunity and were protected from an otherwise lethal challenge. These findings reveal that amplification of a polymorphic cluster of pseudokinases plays an important role in pathogenesis of toxoplasmosis in the mouse model. Overall design: We used a new genotyping protocol based on hybridization of parental and recombinant progeny genomic DNA (gDNA) to Affymetrix gene arrays constructed for T. gondii (http://ancillary.toxodb.org/docs/Array-Tutorial.html). We identified 1,603 single feature polymorphisms (SFP) based on probes that successfully discriminated perfect match (type II) from mismatch (type I) hybridization across all clones and provided reliable SFP markers for this cross.