Toxoplasma gondii is a leading cause of congenital birth defects, as well as a cause for ocular and neurological diseases in humans. Its cytoskeleton is essential for parasite replication and invasion and contains many unique structures that are potential drug targets. Therefore, the biogenesis of the cytoskeletal structure of T. gondii is not only important for its pathogenesis, but also of interest to cell biology in general. Previously, we and others identified a new T. gondii cytoskeletal protein, TgMORN1, which is recruited to the basal complex at the very beginning of daughter formation. However, its function remained largely unknown. In this study, we generated a knock-out mutant of TgMORN1 (ΔTgMORN1) using a Cre-LoxP based approach. We found that the structure of the basal complex was grossly affected in ΔTgMORN1 parasites, which also displayed defects in cytokinesis. Moreover, ΔTgMORN1 parasites showed significant growth impairment in vitro, and this translated into greatly attenuated virulence in mice. Therefore, our results demonstrate that TgMORN1 is required for maintaining the structural integrity of the parasite posterior end, and provide direct evidence that cytoskeleton integrity is essential for parasite virulence and pathogenesis.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology