Author(s): OrtegaBarria E, Boothroyd JC
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Abstract Toxoplasma gondii is one of the most widespread parasites of humans and animals. The parasite has a remarkable ability to invade a broad range of cells within its mammalian hosts by mechanisms that are poorly understood at the molecular level. This broad host cell specificity suggests that adhesion should involve the recognition of ubiquitous surface-exposed host molecules or, alternatively, the presence of various parasite attachment molecules able to recognize different host cell receptors. We have discovered a sugar-binding activity (lectin) in tachyzoites of T. gondii that plays a role in vitro in erythrocyte agglutination and infection of human fibroblasts and epithelial cells. The ability to agglutinate erythrocytes can be reversed by a variety of soluble glycoconjugates, of which heparin, fucoidan, and dextran sulfate were the most effective. Interestingly, infectivity of tachyzoites for human foreskin fibroblasts, cells that are commonly used to grow T. gondii in vitro, was increased by low concentrations of the sulfated glycoconjugates that inhibited hemagglutination activity (i.e. dextran sulfate and fucoidan) whereas high concentrations inhibited parasite infection. Furthermore, inhibition of glycosaminoglycan biosynthesis and sulfation on the host cells reduced Toxoplasma infectivity. Finally, Toxoplasma tachyzoites showed a reduced ability to infect epithelial cell mutants deficient in the biosynthesis of surface proteoglycans. The probable identity of the hemagglutinin(s) was investigated by 1) direct binding of red blood cells to filter blots of Toxoplasma proteins separated by polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis, and 2) binding of metabolically labeled parasite proteins to fixed mammalian cells. Three parasite bands were thus identified as candidate adhesins. These results suggest that attachment of T. gondii to its target cell is mediated by parasite lectins and that sulfated sugars on the surface of host cells may function as a key parasite receptor.
This article was published in J Biol Chem
and referenced in Journal of Diabetes & Metabolism