Using a Genetically Encoded Sensor to Identify Inhibitors of Toxoplasma gondii Ca2+ Signaling.
ABSTRACT: The life cycles of apicomplexan parasites progress in accordance with fluxes in cytosolic Ca(2+) Such fluxes are necessary for events like motility and egress from host cells. We used genetically encoded Ca(2+) indicators (GCaMPs) to develop a cell-based phenotypic screen for compounds that modulate Ca(2+) signaling in the model apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii In doing so, we took advantage of the phosphodiesterase inhibitor zaprinast, which we show acts in part through cGMP-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase G; PKG) to raise levels of cytosolic Ca(2+) We define the pool of Ca(2+) regulated by PKG to be a neutral store distinct from the endoplasmic reticulum. Screening a library of 823 ATP mimetics, we identify both inhibitors and enhancers of Ca(2+) signaling. Two such compounds constitute novel PKG inhibitors and prevent zaprinast from increasing cytosolic Ca(2+) The enhancers identified are capable of releasing intracellular Ca(2+) stores independently of zaprinast or PKG. One of these enhancers blocks parasite egress and invasion and shows strong antiparasitic activity against T. gondii The same compound inhibits invasion of the most lethal malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum Inhibition of Ca(2+)-related phenotypes in these two apicomplexan parasites suggests that depletion of intracellular Ca(2+) stores by the enhancer may be an effective antiparasitic strategy. These results establish a powerful new strategy for identifying compounds that modulate the essential parasite signaling pathways regulated by Ca(2+), underscoring the importance of these pathways and the therapeutic potential of their inhibition.
Project description:The cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG) of apicomplexan parasites is essential for secretion of micronemes and host cell invasion and egress. Both kinase specificity and localization can determine which substrates are phosphorylated. The functions of plasma membrane and cytosolic PKG isoforms of Toxoplasma gondii were unknown because of difficulties precisely manipulating expression of essential genes. Brown et al. (K. M. Brown, S. Long, and L. D. Sibley, mBio 8:e00375-17, https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.00375-17) adapted the auxin-inducible degron (AID) system for conditional expression of T. gondii proteins. AID, in combination with clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeat (CRISPR)-Cas9 gene editing, facilitated creation of a panel of PKG mutants to demonstrate that the membrane association via acylation of PKG is critical for its essential functions in tachyzoites. The cytosolic form of PKG is not sufficient for viability and is dispensable. These studies illuminate a critical role for targeting of kinase complexes for parasite viability. The AID system enables rapid, conditional regulation of protein expression that expands the molecular toolbox of T. gondii.
Project description:Following intracellular replication, the apicomplexan parasites Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii cause host cell cytolysis to facilitate parasite release and disease progression. Parasite exit from infected cells requires the interplay of parasite-derived proteins and host actin cytoskeletal changes; however, the host proteins underlying these changes remain obscure. We report the identification of a G?(q)-coupled host-signaling cascade required for the egress of both P. falciparum and T. gondii. G?(q)-coupled signaling results in protein kinase C (PKC)-mediated loss of the host cytoskeletal protein adducin and weakening of the cellular cytoskeleton. This cytoskeletal compromise induces catastrophic Ca(2+) influx mediated by the mechanosensitive cation channel TRPC6, which activates host calpain that proteolyzes the host cytoskeleton allowing parasite release. Reinforcing the feasibility of targeting host proteins as an antiparasitic strategy, mammalian PKC inhibitors demonstrated activity in murine models of malaria and toxoplasmosis. Importantly, an orally bioavailable PKC inhibitor prolonged survival in an experimental cerebral malaria model.
Project description:The trisubstituted pyrrole 4-[2-(4-fluorophenyl)-5-(1-methylpiperidine-4-yl)-1H-pyrrol-3-yl]pyridine (compound 1) has in vivo activity against the apicomplexan parasites Toxoplasma gondii and Eimeria tenella in animal models. The presumptive molecular target of this compound in E. tenella is cyclic GMP-dependent protein kinase (PKG). Native PKG purified from T. gondii has kinetic and pharmacologic properties similar to those of the E. tenella homologue, and both have been functionally expressed as recombinant proteins in T. gondii. Computer modeling of parasite PKG was used to predict catalytic site amino acid residues that interact with compound 1. The recombinant laboratory-generated mutants T. gondii PKG T761Q or T761M and the analogous E. tenella T770 alleles have reduced binding affinity for, and are not inhibited by, compound 1. By all other criteria, PKG with this class of catalytic site substitution is indistinguishable from wild-type enzyme. A genetic disruption of T. gondii PKG can only be achieved if a complementing copy of PKG is provided in trans, arguing that PKG is an essential protein. Strains of T. gondii, disrupted at the genomic PKG locus and dependent upon the T. gondii T761-substituted PKGs, are as virulent as wild type in mice. However, unlike mice infected with wild-type T. gondii that are cured by compound 1, mice infected with the laboratory-generated strains of T. gondii do not respond to treatment. We conclude that PKG represents the primary molecular target responsible for the antiparasitic efficacy of compound 1.
Project description:During invasion and egress from their host cells, Apicomplexan parasites face sharp changes in the surrounding calcium ion (Ca(2+)) concentration. Our work with Toxoplasma gondii provides evidence for Ca(2+) influx from the extracellular milieu leading to cytosolic Ca(2+) increase and enhancement of virulence traits, such as gliding motility, conoid extrusion, microneme secretion, and host cell invasion. Assays of Mn(2+) and Ba(2+) uptake do not support a canonical store-regulated Ca(2+) entry mechanism. Ca(2+) entry was blocked by the L-type Ca(2+) channel inhibitor nifedipine and stimulated by the increase in cytosolic Ca(2+) and by the specific L-type Ca(2+) channel agonist Bay K-8644. Our results demonstrate that Ca(2+) entry is critical for parasite virulence. We propose a regulated Ca(2+) entry mechanism activated by cytosolic Ca(2+) that has an enhancing effect on invasion-linked traits.
Project description:Many critical events in the Plasmodium life cycle rely on the controlled release of Ca²? from intracellular stores to activate stage-specific Ca²?-dependent protein kinases. Using the motility of Plasmodium berghei ookinetes as a signalling paradigm, we show that the cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP)-dependent protein kinase, PKG, maintains the elevated level of cytosolic Ca²? required for gliding motility. We find that the same PKG-dependent pathway operates upstream of the Ca²? signals that mediate activation of P. berghei gametocytes in the mosquito and egress of Plasmodium falciparum merozoites from infected human erythrocytes. Perturbations of PKG signalling in gliding ookinetes have a marked impact on the phosphoproteome, with a significant enrichment of in vivo regulated sites in multiple pathways including vesicular trafficking and phosphoinositide metabolism. A global analysis of cellular phospholipids demonstrates that in gliding ookinetes PKG controls phosphoinositide biosynthesis, possibly through the subcellular localisation or activity of lipid kinases. Similarly, phosphoinositide metabolism links PKG to egress of P. falciparum merozoites, where inhibition of PKG blocks hydrolysis of phosphatidylinostitol (4,5)-bisphosphate. In the face of an increasing complexity of signalling through multiple Ca²? effectors, PKG emerges as a unifying factor to control multiple cellular Ca²? signals essential for malaria parasite development and transmission.
Project description:Protozoan parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa actively move through tissue to initiate and perpetuate infection. The regulation of parasite motility relies on cyclic nucleotide-dependent kinases, but how these kinases are activated remains unknown. Here, using an array of biochemical and cell biology approaches, we show that the apicomplexan parasite <i>Toxoplasma gondii</i> expresses a large guanylate cyclase (TgGC) protein, which contains several upstream ATPase transporter-like domains. We show that TgGC has a dynamic localization, being concentrated at the apical tip in extracellular parasites, which then relocates to a more cytosolic distribution during intracellular replication. Conditional TgGC knockdown revealed that this protein is essential for acute-stage tachyzoite growth, as TgGC-deficient parasites were defective in motility, host cell attachment, invasion, and subsequent host cell egress. We show that TgGC is critical for a rapid rise in cytosolic [Ca<sup>2+</sup>] and for secretion of microneme organelles upon stimulation with a cGMP agonist, but these deficiencies can be bypassed by direct activation of signaling by a Ca<sup>2+</sup> ionophore. Furthermore, we found that TgGC is required for transducing changes in extracellular pH and [K<sup>+</sup>] to activate cytosolic [Ca<sup>2+</sup>] flux. Together, the results of our work implicate TgGC as a putative signal transducer that activates Ca<sup>2+</sup> signaling and motility in <i>Toxoplasma</i>.
Project description:Microneme secretion is essential for motility, invasion, and egress in apicomplexan parasites. Although previous studies indicate that Ca(2+) and cGMP control microneme secretion, little is known about how these pathways are naturally activated. Here we have developed genetically encoded indicators for Ca(2+) and microneme secretion to better define the signaling pathways that regulate these processes in Toxoplasma gondii We found that microneme secretion was triggered in vitro by exposure to a single host protein, serum albumin. The natural agonist serum albumin induced microneme secretion in a protein kinase G-dependent manner that correlated with increased cGMP levels. Surprisingly, serum albumin acted independently of elevated Ca(2+) and yet it was augmented by artificial agonists that raise Ca(2+), such as ethanol. Furthermore, although ethanol elevated intracellular Ca(2+), it alone was unable to trigger secretion without the presence of serum or serum albumin. This dichotomy was recapitulated by zaprinast, a phosphodiesterase inhibitor that elevated cGMP and separately increased Ca(2+) in a protein kinase G-independent manner leading to microneme secretion. Taken together, these findings reveal that microneme secretion is centrally controlled by protein kinase G and that this pathway is further augmented by elevation of intracellular Ca(2.)
Project description:Protozoa in the phylum Apicomplexa are a large group of obligate intracellular parasites. Toxoplasma gondii and other apicomplexan parasites, such as Plasmodium falciparum, cause diseases by reiterating their lytic cycle, comprising host cell invasion, parasite replication, and parasite egress. The successful completion of the lytic cycle requires that the parasite senses changes in its environment and switches between the non-motile (for intracellular replication) and motile (for invasion and egress) states appropriately. Although the signaling pathway that regulates the motile state switch is critical to the pathogenesis of the diseases caused by these parasites, it is not well understood. Here we report a previously unknown mechanism of regulating the motility activation in Toxoplasma, mediated by a protein lysine methyltransferase, AKMT (for Apical complex lysine (K) methyltransferase). AKMT depletion greatly inhibits activation of motility, compromises parasite invasion and egress, and thus severely impairs the lytic cycle. Interestingly, AKMT redistributes from the apical complex to the parasite body rapidly in the presence of egress-stimulating signals that increase [Ca²?] in the parasite cytoplasm, suggesting that AKMT regulation of parasite motility might be accomplished by the precise temporal control of its localization in response to environmental changes.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that invades host cells, creating a parasitophorous vacuole where it communicates with the host cell cytosol through the parasitophorous vacuole membrane. The lytic cycle of the parasite starts with its exit from the host cell followed by gliding motility, conoid extrusion, attachment, and invasion of another host cell. Here, we report that Ca(2+) oscillations occur in the cytosol of the parasite during egress, gliding, and invasion, which are critical steps of the lytic cycle. Extracellular Ca(2+) enhances each one of these processes. We used tachyzoite clonal lines expressing genetically encoded calcium indicators combined with host cells expressing transiently expressed calcium indicators of different colors, and we measured Ca(2+) changes in both parasites and host simultaneously during egress. We demonstrated a link between cytosolic Ca(2+) oscillations in the host and in the parasite. Our approach also allowed us to measure two new features of motile parasites, which were enhanced by Ca(2+) influx. This is the first study showing, in real time, Ca(2+) signals preceding egress and their direct link with motility, an essential virulence trait.
Project description:Apicomplexan parasites are leading causes of human and livestock diseases such as malaria and toxoplasmosis, yet most of their genes remain uncharacterized. Here, we present the first genome-wide genetic screen of an apicomplexan. We adapted CRISPR/Cas9 to assess the contribution of each gene from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii during infection of human fibroblasts. Our analysis defines ?200 previously uncharacterized, fitness-conferring genes unique to the phylum, from which 16 were investigated, revealing essential functions during infection of human cells. Secondary screens identify as an invasion factor the claudin-like apicomplexan microneme protein (CLAMP), which resembles mammalian tight-junction proteins and localizes to secretory organelles, making it critical to the initiation of infection. CLAMP is present throughout sequenced apicomplexan genomes and is essential during the asexual stages of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. These results provide broad-based functional information on T. gondii genes and will facilitate future approaches to expand the horizon of antiparasitic interventions.