The SRS superfamily of Toxoplasma surface proteins

Int J Parasitol. 2004 Mar 9;34(3):285-96. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2003.12.004.


The surface of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is coated with developmentally expressed, glycosylphosphatidylinositol-linked proteins structurally related to the highly immunogenic surface antigen SAG1. Collectively, these surface antigens are known as the SRS (SAG1-related sequences) superfamily of proteins. SRS proteins are thought to mediate attachment to host cells and activate host immunity to regulate the parasite's virulence. To better understand the number, evolution and developmental expression of SRS genes, this study has bioinformatically identified 161 unique SRS DNA sequences present in the T. gondii type II Me49 genome. The SRS superfamily of sequences phylogenetically bifurcates into two subfamilies, the prototypic members being SAG1 and SAG2A, respectively. Paralogous SRS sequences are 24-99% identical, are tandemly arrayed throughout the genome, and are present on most, if not all, chromosomes. All 11 SRS sequences on chromosomes Ia and Ib are clustered at sub-telomeric expression sites. Messenger RNA expression in the majority of SRS sequences for which multiple Expressed Sequence Tags exist is developmentally regulated. A consensus nucleotide sequence surrounding both the splice acceptor and donor sites was identified in those SRS sequences possessing an intron. Genotypic differences among SRS sequences are present at several loci (e.g. the absence of SAG5B, the truncation of SAG2D in Me49 compared with RH) indicating that different genotypes possess distinct sets of SRS sequences. Orthologous genes are restricted to tissue-dwelling coccidia (Neospora, Sarcocystis) with no related sequences present in other more distant apicomplexa such as Eimeria, Cryptosporidia, and Plasmodium spp.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology
  • Antigens, Surface / genetics
  • Antigens, Surface / immunology
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Genome
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phylogeny
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Protozoan Proteins / immunology
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Toxoplasma / genetics*
  • Toxoplasma / immunology


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • SAG1 antigen, Toxoplasma