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Int J Parasitol. 2004 Mar 9;34(3):369-80.

A role for coccidian cGMP-dependent protein kinase in motility and invasion.

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Department of Human and Animal Infectious Disease Research, Merck Research Laboratories, Merck and Co Inc, PO Box 2000, Rahway, NJ 07065, USA.


The coccidian parasite cGMP-dependent protein kinase is the primary target of a novel coccidiostat, the trisubstituted pyrrole 4-[2-(4-fluorophenyl)-5-(1-methylpiperidine-4-yl)-1H-pyrrol-3-yl] pyridine (compound 1), which effectively controls the proliferation of Eimeria tenella and Toxoplasma gondii parasites in animal models. The efficacy of compound 1 in parasite-specific metabolic assays of infected host cell monolayers is critically dependent on the timing of compound addition. Simultaneous addition of compound with extracellular E. tenella sporozoites or T. gondii tachyzoites inhibited [3H]-uracil uptake in a dose-dependent manner, while minimal efficacy was observed if compound addition was delayed, suggesting a block in host cell invasion. Immunofluorescence assays confirmed that compound 1 blocks the attachment of Eimeria sporozoites or Toxoplasma tachyzoites to host cells and inhibits parasite invasion and gliding motility. Compound 1 also inhibits the secretion of micronemal adhesins (E. tenella MIC1, MIC2 and T. gondii MIC2), an activity closely linked to invasion and motility in apicomplexan parasites. The inhibition of T. gondii MIC2 adhesin secretion by compound 1 was not reversed by treatment with calcium ionophores or by ethanol (a microneme secretagogue), suggesting a block downstream of calcium-dependent events commonly associated with the discharge of the microneme organelle in tachyzoites. Transgenic Toxoplasma strains expressing cGMP-dependent protein kinase mutant alleles that are refractory to compound 1 (including cGMP-dependent protein kinase knock-out lines complemented by such mutants) were used as tools to validate the potential role of cGMP-dependent protein kinase in invasion and motility. In these strains, parasite adhesin secretion, gliding motility, host cell attachment and invasion displayed a reduced sensitivity to compound 1. These data clearly demonstrate that cGMP-dependent protein kinase performs an important role in the host-parasite interaction.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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