Research Spotlight: A Toxoplasma gondii protein important for cell shape and virulence

By Matt Wargo • December 3rd, 2011

Citation: Barkhuff, W.D., Gilk, S.D., Whitmarsh, R., Tilley, L.D., Hunter, C., Ward, G.E. 2011. Targeted disruption of TgPhIL1 in Toxoplasma gondii results in altered parasite morphology and fitness. PLoS One. 6(8):e23977.

Direct link to publication

Authors Associated with MMG:
Whittney Dotzler Barkhuff – was an MD/PhD student in the CMB program
Stacey Gilk – was an MMG graduate student
Luke Tilley – is an MMG graduate student
Gary Ward – is a Professor in the MMG Department

The inner membrane complex (IMC) is thought to be important for parasite shape, motility, and replication and is comprised of a series of flattened vesicles at the periphery of apicomplexan parasites. The authors had previously identified the protein TgPhlL1 as a component of the IMC concentrated at the apical end of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, but the function remained unknown. Here the authors generated TgPhlL1 deletion mutants and have shown an altered morphology that can be rescued with the wild-type allele. The TgPhlL1 mutants compete poorly with wild-type in culture and the mutants have reduced virulence in a mouse infection model.

Impact and Significance:
These findings demonstrate a role for TgPhIL1 in the morphology, growth and fitness of T. gondii. Based on these findings, TgPhlL1 may represent a novel therapeutic target for the treatment of toxoplasmosis.

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