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Nat Microbiol. 2019 Sep 2. doi: 10.1038/s41564-019-0539-x. [Epub ahead of print]

Life cycle progression and sexual development of the apicomplexan parasite Cryptosporidium parvum.

Author information

1
Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
2
Franklin College of Arts and Science, University of Georgia, Athens, GA, USA.
3
Department of Pathobiology, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA, USA. striepen@upenn.edu.

Abstract

The apicomplexan parasite Cryptosporidium is a leading global cause of severe diarrhoeal disease and an important contributor to early childhood mortality. Currently, there are no fully effective treatments or vaccines available. Parasite transmission occurs through ingestion of oocysts, through either direct contact or consumption of contaminated water or food. Oocysts are meiotic spores and the product of parasite sex. Cryptosporidium has a single-host life cycle in which both asexual and sexual processes occur in the intestine of infected hosts. Here, we genetically engineered strains of Cryptosporidium to make life cycle progression and parasite sex tractable. We derive reporter strains to follow parasite development in culture and in infected mice and define the genes that orchestrate sex and oocyst formation through mRNA sequencing of sorted cells. After 2 d, parasites in cell culture show pronounced sexualization, but productive fertilization does not occur and infection falters. By contrast, in infected mice, male gametes successfully fertilize female parasites, which leads to meiotic division and sporulation. To rigorously test for fertilization, we devised a two-component genetic-crossing assay using a reporter that is activated by Cre recombinase. Our findings suggest obligate developmental progression towards sex in Cryptosporidium, which has important implications for the treatment and prevention of the infection.

PMID:
31477896
DOI:
10.1038/s41564-019-0539-x

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