Toxoplasma gondii exhibits a complex, multi-stage life cycle in which the need for parasite expansion is balanced with the production of transmissible forms. For human disease the key developmental switch is from the tachyzoite to the mature bradyzoite, which is not well understood at the molecular level. This review highlights the role of the tachyzoite in regulating the initiation of bradyzoite differentiation through newly discovered transcription factors of the ApiAP2 family that must be turned off for development to unfold. Exit from the tachyzoite cell cycle is also tightly co-ordinated with the induction of bradyzoite gene expression, which is strongly influenced by the host cell environment. New evidence suggests a parasite casein kinase II and host anti-growth factor CDA1 can influence specific pathways that are responsible for sensing the host cell environment and informing the parasites decision to continue replication or to develop into bradyzoites. These results indicate tachyzoite gene expression mechanisms and signal transduction pathways likely hold the keys to tissue cyst formation in Toxoplasma.
© 2014 John Wiley & Sons Ltd.