Microsporidia interact with host cell mitochondria via voltage-dependent anion channels using sporoplasm surface protein 1

Bing Han, Yanfen Ma, Vincent Tu, Tadakimi Tomita, Joshua Mayoral, Tere Williams, Aline Horta, Huan Huang, Louis M. Weissa

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Microsporidia are opportunistic intracellular pathogens that can infect a wide variety of hosts ranging from invertebrates to vertebrates. During invasion, the microsporidian polar tube pushes into the host cell, creating a protective microenvironment, the invasion synapse, into which the sporoplasm extrudes. Within the synapse, the sporoplasm then invades the host cell, forming a parasitophorous vacuole (PV). Using a proteomic approach, we identified Encephalitozoon hellem sporoplasm surface protein 1 (EhSSP1), which localized to the surface of extruded sporoplasms. EhSSP1 was also found to interact with polar tube protein 4 (PTP4). Recombinant EhSSP1 (rEhSSP1) bound to human foreskin fibroblasts, and both anti-EhSSP1 and rEhSSP1 caused decreased levels of host cell invasion, suggesting that interaction of SSP1 with the host cell was involved in invasion. Coimmunoprecipitation (Co-IP) followed by proteomic analysis identified host cell voltage-dependent anion channels (VDACs) as EhSSP1 interacting proteins. Yeast two-hybrid assays demonstrated that EhSSP1 was able to interact with VDAC1, VDAC2, and VDAC3. rEhSSP1 colocalized with the host mitochondria which were associated with microsporidian PVs in infected cells. Transmission electron microscopy revealed that the outer mitochondrial membrane interacted with meronts and the PV membrane, mitochondria clustered around meronts, and the VDACs were concentrated at the interface of mitochondria and parasite. Knockdown of VDAC1, VDAC2, and VDAC3 in host cells resulted in significant decreases in the number and size of the PVs and a decrease in mitochondrial PV association. The interaction of EhSSP1 with VDAC probably plays an important part in energy acquisition by microsporidia via its role in the association of mitochondria with the PV. IMPORTANCE Microsporidia are important opportunistic human pathogens in immune-suppressed individuals, such as those with HIV/AIDS and recipients of organ transplants. The sporoplasm is critical for establishing microsporidian infection. Despite the biological importance of this structure for transmission, there is limited information about its structure and composition that could be targeted for therapeutic intervention. Here, we identified a novel E. hellem sporoplasm surface protein, EhSSP1, and demonstrated that it can bind to host cell mitochondria via host VDAC. Our data strongly suggest that the interaction between SSP1 and VDAC is important for the association of mitochondria with the parasitophorous vacuole during microsporidian infection. In addition, binding of SSP1 to the host cell is associated with the final steps of invasion in the invasion synapse.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere01944-19
Issue number4
StatePublished - 2019


  • Encephalitozoon hellem
  • Microsporidia
  • Mitochondria
  • Parasitophorous vacuole
  • Sporoplasm surface protein
  • VDAC
  • Voltage-dependent anion selective channels

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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