Secretion of micronemal proteins is associated with toxoplasma invasion of host cells

Cell Microbiol. 1999 Nov;1(3):225-35. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-5822.1999.00023.x.


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that actively invades a wide variety of vertebrate cells, although the basis of its pervasive cell invasion is not completely understood. Here, we demonstrate, using several independent assays, that Toxoplasma invasion of host cells is tightly coupled to the release of proteins stored within apical secretory granules called micronemes. Both microneme secretion and cell invasion were highly temperature dependent, and partial depletion of microneme resulted in a transient loss of infectivity. Chelation of parasite intracellular calcium strongly inhibited both microneme release and invasion of host cells, and this effect was partially reversed by raising intracellular calcium using the ionophore A23187. We also provide evidence that a staurosporine-sensitive kinase activity regulates microneme discharge and is required for parasite invasion of host cells. Additionally, we demonstrate that, during apical attachment to the host cell, the micronemal protein MIC2 is released at the junction between the parasite and the host cell. During invasion, MIC2 is successively translocated towards the posterior end of the parasite and is shed before entry of the parasite into the vacuole. Furthermore, we show that the full-length cellular form of MIC2, but not the proteolytically modified secreted form of MIC2, binds specifically to host cells. Collectively, these observations strongly imply that micronemal proteins play a role in Toxoplasma invasion of host cells.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / physiology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Membrane / parasitology
  • Cell Membrane / ultrastructure
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Fibroblasts / drug effects
  • Fibroblasts / parasitology
  • Fibroblasts / ultrastructure
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Secretory Vesicles / metabolism
  • Staurosporine / pharmacology
  • Temperature
  • Toxoplasma / cytology
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism
  • Toxoplasma / pathogenicity*


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • MIC2 protein, Toxoplasma gondii
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Staurosporine
  • Calcium