Reid, Adam James; Vermont, Sarah J.; Cotton, James A.; Harris, David; Hill-Cawthorne, Grant A.; Könen-Waisman, Stephanie; Latham, Sophia M.; Mourier, Tobias; Norton, Rebecca; Quail, Michael A.; Sanders, Mandy; Shanmugam, Dhanasekaran; Sohal, Amandeep; Wasmuth, James D.; Brunk, Brian; Grigg, Michael E.; Howard, Jonathan C.; Parkinson, John; Roos, David S.; Trees, Alexander J.; Berriman, Matthew; Pain, Arnab; Wastling, Jonathan M.(PLoS Pathogens, Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2012-03-22)[Article]
Toxoplasma gondii is a zoonotic protozoan parasite which infects nearly one third of the human population and is found in an extraordinary range of vertebrate hosts. Its epidemiology depends heavily on horizontal transmission, especially between rodents and its definitive host, the cat. Neospora caninum is a recently discovered close relative of Toxoplasma, whose definitive host is the dog. Both species are tissue-dwelling Coccidia and members of the phylum Apicomplexa; they share many common features, but Neospora neither infects humans nor shares the same wide host range as Toxoplasma, rather it shows a striking preference for highly efficient vertical transmission in cattle. These species therefore provide a remarkable opportunity to investigate mechanisms of host restriction, transmission strategies, virulence and zoonotic potential. We sequenced the genome of N. caninum and transcriptomes of the invasive stage of both species, undertaking an extensive comparative genomics and transcriptomics analysis. We estimate that these organisms diverged from their common ancestor around 28 million years ago and find that both genomes and gene expression are remarkably conserved. However, in N. caninum we identified an unexpected expansion of surface antigen gene families and the divergence of secreted virulence factors, including rhoptry kinases. Specifically we show that the rhoptry kinase ROP18 is pseudogenised in N. caninum and that, as a possible consequence, Neospora is unable to phosphorylate host immunity-related GTPases, as Toxoplasma does. This defense strategy is thought to be key to virulence in Toxoplasma. We conclude that the ecological niches occupied by these species are influenced by a relatively small number of gene products which operate at the host-parasite interface and that the dominance of vertical transmission in N. caninum may be associated with the evolution of reduced virulence in this species.
Gomes-Santos, Carina S. S.; Braks, Joanna; Prudêncio, Miguel; Carret, Céline; Gomes, Ana Rita; Pain, Arnab; Feltwell, Theresa; Khan, Shahid; Waters, Andrew; Janse, Chris; Mair, Gunnar R.; Mota, Maria M.(PLoS Pathogens, Public Library of Science (PLoS), 2011-05-19)[Article]
Many eukaryotic developmental and cell fate decisions that are effected post-transcriptionally involve RNA binding proteins as regulators of translation of key mRNAs. In malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.), the development of round, non-motile and replicating exo-erythrocytic liver stage forms from slender, motile and cell-cycle arrested sporozoites is believed to depend on environmental changes experienced during the transmission of the parasite from the mosquito vector to the vertebrate host. Here we identify a Plasmodium member of the RNA binding protein family PUF as a key regulator of this transformation. In the absence of Pumilio-2 (Puf2) sporozoites initiate EEF development inside mosquito salivary glands independently of the normal transmission-associated environmental cues. Puf2- sporozoites exhibit genome-wide transcriptional changes that result in loss of gliding motility, cell traversal ability and reduction in infectivity, and, moreover, trigger metamorphosis typical of early Plasmodium intra-hepatic development. These data demonstrate that Puf2 is a key player in regulating sporozoite developmental control, and imply that transformation of salivary gland-resident sporozoites into liver stage-like parasites is regulated by a post-transcriptional mechanism. 2011 Gomes-Santos et al.
Background: The pir genes comprise the largest multi-gene family in Plasmodium, with members found in P. vivax, P. knowlesi and the rodent malaria species. Despite comprising up to 5% of the genome, little is known about the functions of the proteins encoded by pir genes. P. chabaudi causes chronic infection in mice, which may be due to antigenic variation. In this model, pir genes are called cirs and may be involved in this mechanism, allowing evasion of host immune responses. In order to fully understand the role(s) of CIR proteins during P. chabaudi infection, a detailed characterization of the cir gene family was required.Results: The cir repertoire was annotated and a detailed bioinformatic characterization of the encoded CIR proteins was performed. Two major sub-families were identified, which have been named A and B. Members of each sub-family displayed different amino acid motifs, and were thus predicted to have undergone functional divergence. In addition, the expression of the entire cir repertoire was analyzed via RNA sequencing and microarray. Up to 40% of the cir gene repertoire was expressed in the parasite population during infection, and dominant cir transcripts could be identified. In addition, some differences were observed in the pattern of expression between the cir subgroups at the peak of P. chabaudi infection. Finally, specific cir genes were expressed at different time points during asexual blood stages.Conclusions: In conclusion, the large number of cir genes and their expression throughout the intraerythrocytic cycle of development indicates that CIR proteins are likely to be important for parasite survival. In particular, the detection of dominant cir transcripts at the peak of P. chabaudi infection supports the idea that CIR proteins are expressed, and could perform important functions in the biology of this parasite. Further application of the methodologies described here may allow the elucidation of CIR sub-family A and B protein functions, including their contribution to antigenic variation and immune evasion. 2012 Lawton et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
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