Stable Transformation of Toxoplasma Gondii Based on a Pyrimethamine Resistant Trifunctional Dihydrofolate Reductase-Cytosine Deaminase-Thymidylate Synthase Gene That Confers Sensitivity to 5-fluorocytosine

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1999 Jan 5;98(1):93-103. doi: 10.1016/s0166-6851(98)00154-6.


To improve genetic models available for the analysis of apicomplexan protozoan parasites, bacterial sequences encoding the 427 amino acid cytosine deaminase (CD) gene were fused, in-frame, to an engineered linker domain of the high level pyrimethamine resistant form of the parasite bifunctional dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) gene. Toxoplasma gondii was transformed with the plasmid containing the fused pyrimethamine resistant dihydrofolate reductase-cytosine deaminase-thymidylate synthase (DHFRm2m3-CD-TS) gene and parasites were selected in a high level of pyrimethamine. Transfected parasites that acquired resistance to pyrimethamine were cloned and evaluated for expression of the CD genetic marker. CD transgenic parasites acquired a high sensitivity to 5-fluorocytosine due to the intraparasitic conversion of this non-toxic prodrug to the cytotoxic compound 5-fluorouracil. Exogenously supplied cytosine or uracil rescued the growth of CD transgenic T. gondii parasites that were cultured in the presence of cytotoxic concentrations of 5-fluorouracil or 5-fluorocytosine. Bacterial CD fused to the pyrimethamine resistant DHFR-TS marker provides a novel genetic tool for new positive and negative genetic selection strategies in several protozoan parasites. An advantage of the CD genetic marker is that it is derived from a bacterial gene and can therefore be used in nearly any parasite genetic background for negative selection. This novel system should facilitate new approaches for the development of improved model genetic systems for the biological investigation of apicomplexan parasites.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Cytosine / metabolism
  • Cytosine Deaminase
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Resistance
  • Flucytosine / pharmacology*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Multienzyme Complexes / genetics
  • Nucleoside Deaminases / genetics
  • Pyrimethamine / pharmacology*
  • Selection, Genetic*
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / genetics
  • Thymidylate Synthase / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / genetics*
  • Transformation, Genetic*


  • Genetic Markers
  • Multienzyme Complexes
  • thymidylate synthase-dihydrofolate reductase
  • Cytosine
  • Flucytosine
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Nucleoside Deaminases
  • Cytosine Deaminase
  • Pyrimethamine