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Mol Microbiol. 2011 Jan;79(1):192-204. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2010.07441.x. Epub 2010 Nov 9.

Cell cycle-dependent, intercellular transmission of Toxoplasma gondii is accompanied by marked changes in parasite gene expression.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, University of Michigan Medical School, 1150 W. Medical Center Dr., Ann Arbor, MI 48109, USA.


Intracellular microbes have evolved efficient strategies for transitioning from one cell to another in a process termed intercellular transmission. Here we show that host cell transmission of the obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii is closely tied to specific cell cycle distributions, with egress and reinvasion occurring most proficiently by parasites in the G1 phase. We also reveal that Toxoplasma undergoes marked changes in mRNA expression when transitioning from the extracellular environment to its intracellular niche. These mRNA level changes reflect a modal switch from expression of proteins involved in invasion, motility and signal transduction in extracellular parasites to expression of metabolic and DNA replication proteins in intracellular parasites. Host cell binding and signalling associated with the discharge of parasite secretory proteins was not sufficient to induce this switch in gene expression, suggesting that the regulatory mechanisms responsible are tied to the establishment of the intracellular environment. The genes whose expression increased after parasite invasion belong to a progressive cascade known to underlie the parasite division cycle indicating that the unique relationship between the G1 phase and invasion effectively synchronizes short-term population growth. This work provides new insight into how this highly successful parasite competently transits from cell to cell.

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