Identification of a novel protein complex essential for effector translocation across the parasitophorous vacuole membrane of Toxoplasma gondii

PLoS Pathog. 2018 Jan 22;14(1):e1006828. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1006828. eCollection 2018 Jan.


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that can infect virtually all nucleated cells in warm-blooded animals. The ability of Toxoplasma tachyzoites to infect and successfully manipulate its host is dependent on its ability to transport "GRA" proteins that originate in unique secretory organelles called dense granules into the host cell in which they reside. GRAs have diverse roles in Toxoplasma's intracellular lifecycle, including co-opting crucial host cell functions and proteins, such as the cell cycle, c-Myc and p38 MAP kinase. Some of these GRA proteins, such as GRA16 and GRA24, are secreted into the parasitophorous vacuole (PV) within which Toxoplasma replicates and are transported across the PV membrane (PVM) into the host cell, but the translocation process and its machinery are not well understood. We previously showed that TgMYR1, which is cleaved by TgASP5 into two fragments, localizes to the PVM and is essential for GRA transport into the host cell. To identify additional proteins necessary for effector transport, we screened Toxoplasma mutants defective in c-Myc up-regulation for their ability to export GRA16 and GRA24 to the host cell nucleus. Here we report that novel proteins MYR2 and MYR3 play a crucial role in translocation of a subset of GRAs into the host cell. MYR2 and MYR3 are secreted into the PV space and co-localize with PV membranes and MYR1. Consistent with their predicted transmembrane domains, all three proteins are membrane-associated, and MYR3, but not MYR2, stably associates with MYR1, whose N- and C-terminal fragments are disulfide-linked. We further show that fusing intrinsically disordered effectors to a structured DHFR domain blocks the transport of other effectors, consistent with a translocon-based model of effector transport. Overall, these results reveal a novel complex at the PVM that is essential for effector translocation into the host cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Female
  • Host-Parasite Interactions*
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / metabolism
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / parasitology
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / pathology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Multiprotein Complexes / genetics
  • Multiprotein Complexes / metabolism*
  • Organisms, Genetically Modified
  • Protein Translocation Systems / genetics
  • Protein Translocation Systems / isolation & purification*
  • Protein Translocation Systems / metabolism
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / isolation & purification*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Toxoplasma / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / metabolism*
  • Toxoplasma / pathogenicity
  • Vacuoles / metabolism
  • Virulence Factors / metabolism*


  • Multiprotein Complexes
  • Protein Translocation Systems
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Virulence Factors