Induction and Regulation of Conoid Extrusion in Toxoplasma Gondii

Cell Microbiol. 2009 Jun;11(6):967-82. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2009.01304.x. Epub 2009 Feb 27.


Cell invasion by the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii occurs through an active process that involves dynamic events, such as gliding motility and conoid extrusion, followed by a sequential secretion from specialized secretory organelles. Increase of intracellular Ca(2+) by ionophores induces conoid extrusion, although in an irreversible way, thus limiting the characterization of the regulatory pathways. In this report we studied the effect of different activating conoid conditions to characterize the regulatory mechanisms involved. Exposure of tachyzoites to ethanol, a well-known activator of microneme secretion through the increase of intracellular Ca(2+), induced conoid extrusion without affecting parasite viability nor its in vitro invasive capability, in a process that could be completely reverted and repeatedly reactivated. A temporal relationship between conoid extrusion and microneme secretion was here studied. Under this condition, signal transduction pathways and the precise role of the parasite cytoskeleton were characterized. Our results indicate that phospholipase C, Ca(2+) released through channels sensitive to inositol-3-phosphate and ryanodine, as well as myosin together with actin filaments, but not microtubules, all participate in conoid extrusion. Specific inhibitors for serine-threonine kinases blocked conoid extrusion; in contrast, calmodulin inhibitors did not affect the induction. A regulatory model for conoid activation is here proposed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Ethanol / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Myosins / metabolism
  • Organelles / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasma / drug effects*
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism


  • Ethanol
  • Type C Phospholipases
  • Myosins
  • Calcium