Toxoplasma gondii: the model apicomplexan

Int J Parasitol. 2004 Mar 9;34(3):423-32. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2003.12.009.


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular protozoan parasite which is a significant human and veterinary pathogen. Other members of the phylum Apicomplexa are also important pathogens including Plasmodium species (i.e. malaria), Eimeria species, Neospora, Babesia, Theileria and Cryptosporidium. Unlike most of these organisms, T. gondii is readily amenable to genetic manipulation in the laboratory. Cell biology studies are more readily performed in T. gondii due to the high efficiency of transient and stable transfection, the availability of many cell markers, and the relative ease with which the parasite can be studied using advanced microscopic techniques. Thus, for many experimental questions, T. gondii remains the best model system to study the biology of the Apicomplexa. Our understanding of the mechanisms of drug resistance, the biology of the apicoplast, and the process of host cell invasion has been advanced by studies in T. gondii. Heterologous expression of apicomplexan proteins in T. gondii has frequently facilitated further characterisation of proteins that could not be easily studied. Recent studies of Apicomplexa have been complemented by genome sequencing projects that have facilitated discovery of surprising differences in cell biology and metabolism between Apicomplexa. While results in T. gondii will not always be applicable to other Apicomplexa, T. gondii remains an important model system for understanding the biology of apicomplexan parasites.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / pharmacology
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Models, Biological
  • Purines / metabolism
  • Pyrimidines / metabolism
  • Toxoplasma / drug effects
  • Toxoplasma / genetics*
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism


  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Purines
  • Pyrimidines
  • pyrimidine
  • purine