Homologous recombination and gene replacement at the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase locus in Toxoplasma gondii

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1994 Feb;63(2):243-53. doi: 10.1016/0166-6851(94)90060-4.


To investigate the feasibility of genomic transgene expression and gene targeting in Toxoplasma gondii, parasites have been transfected with constructs differing in the length of contiguous genomic sequence spanning the dihydrofolate reductase-thymidylate synthase (DHFR-TS) gene. We have previously reported that vectors derived from a DHFR-TS cDNA 'minigene' containing mutations in the DHFR coding sequence confer pyrimethamine resistance to transfected parasites (Donald and Roos, 1993). Stably resistant parasite clones arise at high frequency, generally by virtue of transgene integration into parasite chromosomes at locations scattered throughout the genome. In contrast, using a vector which contains 8 kb of contiguous genomic sequence (vs. < 2 kb for the cDNA-derived vectors), approximately half of the integration events occur by homologous recombination. Homologous recombination appears to occur at even higher frequency when a 16 kb genomic clone is used. Circular plasmids were more efficient than linearized molecules at producing homologous recombination in this system, integrating by reciprocal crossing-over to produce a duplication of the DHFR-TS locus. Double crossing-over (or gene conversion) was also observed at low frequency, resulting in complete allelic replacement in this haploid stage of the parasite. The ability to produce either homologous or non-homologous recombinants, by the selection of appropriate transformation constructs, has considerable genetic potential.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Alleles
  • Animals
  • Animals, Genetically Modified
  • Drug Resistance / genetics
  • Genes, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Genetic Markers
  • Genetic Vectors / genetics*
  • Models, Genetic
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Pyrimethamine / pharmacology
  • Recombination, Genetic / genetics*
  • Sequence Homology, Nucleic Acid
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase / genetics*
  • Thymidylate Synthase / genetics
  • Toxoplasma / enzymology
  • Toxoplasma / genetics*
  • Transformation, Genetic / genetics


  • Genetic Markers
  • Tetrahydrofolate Dehydrogenase
  • Thymidylate Synthase
  • Pyrimethamine

Associated data

  • GENBANK/L08489