Dense Granule Protein GRA64 Interacts with Host Cell ESCRT Proteins during Toxoplasma gondii Infection

Joshua Mayoral, Rebekah B. Guevara, Yolanda Rivera-Cuevas, Vincent Tu, Tadakimi Tomita, Julia D. Romano, Leslie Gunther-Cummins, Simone Sidoli, Isabelle Coppens, Vernon B. Carruthers, Louis M. Weiss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


The intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii adapts to diverse host cell environments within a replicative compartment that is heavily decorated by secreted proteins. In an attempt to identify novel parasite secreted proteins that influence host cell activity, we identified and characterized a transmembrane dense granule protein dubbed GRA64 (TGME49_202620). We found that GRA64 is on the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (PVM) and is partially exposed to the host cell cytoplasm in both tachyzoite and bradyzoite parasitophorous vacuoles. Using co-immunoprecipitation and proximity-based biotinylation approaches, we demonstrated that GRA64 appears to interact with components of the host endosomal sorting complexes required for transport (ESCRT). Genetic disruption of GRA64 does not affect acute Toxoplasma virulence or encystation in mice, as observed via tissue cyst burdens in mice during chronic infection. However, ultrastructural analysis of Dgra64 tissue cysts using electron tomography revealed enlarged vesicular structures underneath the cyst membrane, suggesting a role for GRA64 in organizing the recruitment of ESCRT proteins and subsequent intracystic vesicle formation. This study uncovers a novel host-parasite interaction that contributes to an emerging paradigm in which specific host ESCRT proteins are recruited to the limiting membranes (PVMs) of tachyzoite and bradyzoite vacuoles formed during acute and chronic Toxoplasma infection. IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma gondii is a widespread foodborne parasite that causes congenital disease and life-threatening complications in immunocompromised individuals. Part of this parasite’s success lies in its ability to infect diverse organisms and host cells and to persist as a latent infection within parasite-constructed structures called tissue cysts. In this study, we characterized a protein that is secreted by T. gondii into its parasitophorous vacuole during intracellular infection, which we dub GRA64. On the vacuolar membrane, this protein is exposed to the host cell cytosol and interacts with specific host ESCRT proteins. Parasites lacking the GRA64 protein exhibit ultrastructural changes in tissue cysts during chronic infection. This study lays the foundation for future studies on the mechanics and consequences of host ESCRT-parasite protein interactions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2022


  • GRA
  • Toxoplasma
  • bradyzoite
  • cell membranes
  • dense granule protein
  • membrane transport

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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