Composition and formation of the cyst wall

Project: Research project

Project Details


ABSTRACT: Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous Apicomplexan protozoan parasite of mammals and birds. It is unusual in that propagation does not require passage through its definitive host enabling T. gondii to propagate clonally through its intermediate hosts. T. gondii causes congenital infections in immune competent hosts and opportunistic infections in immune compromised hosts. The predilection of this parasite for the central nervous system causing necrotizing encephalitis and for the eye causing chorioretinitis constitutes its major threat to patients. The development of these diseases is a consequence of the transition of bradyzoites, found within tissue cysts into actively replicating tachyzoites. It is believed that tissue cysts are not static structures, but regularly rupture reinvading new host cells. It is likely that in chronic toxoplasmosis, i.e. latent infection, tissue cysts within host cells, regularly transform to tachyzoites which are removed or sequestered by the immune system. Degenerating cysts are often seen in the brains of mice with chronic toxoplasmosis. Such a dynamic equilibrium between encysted and replicating forms leads to recurrent antigenic stimulation and the persistent antibody titers found in chronically infected hosts. The widespread distribution of T. gondii in humans and other animals is due to the ability of tissue cysts to permit oral transmission of this infection. The cyst wall is the critical structure for survival, reactivation and transmission of T. gondii. Understanding T. gondii developmental biology and formation of the cyst wall will inform strategies such as vaccine development and therapeutic agents to eliminate latency and prevent reactivation toxoplasmosis. Several lines of evidence suggest that bradyzoite differentiation is stress mediated and that the cyst wall (a modified parasitophorous vacuole membrane) contains many stage specific proteins and glycoproteins. Our laboratory group has identified several cyst wall specific proteins several of which have mucin type domains that are o-glycosylated and demonstrated that glycosylation is important for cyst wall stability. CST1, a cyst wall glycoprotein, appears to be a scaffolding protein for formation of the cyst wall and we hypothesize that other cyst wall proteins interact with CST1 in establishing the cyst wall. Our laboratory group has developed techniques to purify the cyst wall enabling proteomic characterization of this structure as well as adapted BirA tagging techniques to enable definition of the cyst wall interactome. Furthermore, we have established ppGalNAcTs knockout T. gondii strains that enable studies on the role of o-glycosylation in cyst wall formation. An integrated approach employing proteomic, immunologic and genetic techniques will be used to fully characterize the T. gondii cyst wall proteome and the importance and interactions of the identified cyst wall components. The improved understanding of the formation of the cyst wall provide by these studies will provide the basic underpinnings of new strategies to eliminate latent infection thereby preventing reactivation toxoplasmosis.
Effective start/end date6/1/185/31/23


  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $417,500.00
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $188,969.00
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $417,500.00
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $417,500.00
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $417,500.00
  • National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: $228,531.00


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