Infection with Toxoplasma gondii results in dysregulation of the host cell cycle

Cell Microbiol. 2008 May;10(5):1153-65. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2008.01117.x. Epub 2008 Jan 7.


Mammalian cells infected with Toxoplasma gondii are characterized by a profound reprogramming of gene expression. We examined whether such transcriptional responses were linked to changes in the cell cycle of the host. Human foreskin fibroblasts (HFFs) in the G(0)/G(1) phase of the cell cycle were infected with T. gondii and FACS analysis of DNA content was performed. Cell cycle profiles revealed a promotion into the S phase followed by an arrest towards the G(2)/M boundary with infection. This response was markedly different from that of growth factor stimulation which caused cell cycle entry and completion. Transcriptional profiles of T. gondii-infected HFF showed sustained increases in transcripts associated with a G(1)/S transition and DNA synthesis coupled to an abrogation of cell cycle regulators critical in G(2)/M transition relative to growth factor stimulation. These divergent responses correlated with a distinct temporal modulation of the critical cell cycle regulator kinase ERK by infection. While the kinetics of ERK phosphorylation by EGF showed rapid and sustained activation, infected cells displayed an oscillatory pattern of activation. Our results suggest that T. gondii infection induces and maintains a 'proliferation response' in the infected cell which may fulfill critical growth requirements of the parasite during intracellular residence.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Cycle*
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases / metabolism
  • Fibroblasts / cytology
  • Fibroblasts / microbiology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • S Phase
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasmosis / metabolism


  • Cyclins
  • Extracellular Signal-Regulated MAP Kinases