The complexity of signaling in host-pathogen interactions revealed by the Toxoplasma gondii-dependent modulation of JNK phosphorylation

Exp Cell Res. 2008 Dec 10;314(20):3724-36. doi: 10.1016/j.yexcr.2008.09.019. Epub 2008 Oct 7.


The inhibition of apoptosis by Toxoplasma gondii is governed by its modulation of several signaling cascades including the NFkappaappaB and JNK pathways. This is evident in the dysregulation of JNK activation following treatment with UV and TNFalpha, both apoptogenic stimuli. Infection-mediated interference with the JNK cascade was found to be highly reproducible in HeLa cells. In light of emerging evidence regarding cross talk between the JNK and NFkappaB cascades, we examined the impact of infection in wild type and RelA/p65-/- mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEF). Remarkably, parasite infection failed to significantly impact both UV and TNFalpha-mediated JNK phosphorylation in both cell lines suggesting a cell type specific effect. Furthermore siRNA-mediated knockdown of RelA/p65 failed to impact the parasite mediated effects on stimulus dependent activation of JNK in HeLa cells. Finally, the infection mediated suppression of JNK phosphorylation in HeLa cells did not result in decreased JNK kinase activity. Rather, the reduced levels of phospho-JNK in infected cells correlated with increased phosphatase activity noted by the partial rescue of the phenotype following treatment with okadaic acid. Taken together the results indicate that manipulation of the JNK pathway does not involve NFkappaB and is furthermore not a central component of the parasite enforced block of apoptosis. It further highlights the complexity of these systems and the danger of extrapolating results both within and across pathogen-host cell systems based on limited studies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Enzyme Activation / drug effects
  • Enzyme Activation / radiation effects
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Gene Knockdown Techniques
  • HeLa Cells
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology*
  • Humans
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases / metabolism*
  • Okadaic Acid / pharmacology
  • Phosphorylation / drug effects
  • Phosphorylation / radiation effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology*
  • Toxoplasma / physiology*
  • Toxoplasmosis / enzymology
  • Toxoplasmosis / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasmosis / pathology
  • Transcription Factor RelA / genetics
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Transcription Factor RelA
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Okadaic Acid
  • JNK Mitogen-Activated Protein Kinases