Amino-terminal control of transgenic protein expression levels in Toxoplasma gondii.
ABSTRACT Comparing the steady-state expression levels of recombinant proteins in Toxoplasma gondii parasites indicates considerable variability, and this has sometimes caused difficulties in the engineering of transgenic parasites. Anecdotal observations suggested that alteration of the N-terminus, e.g. by engineering as a fusion protein, permits stable expression of various transgenes that were previously difficult to express in their native form. We have exploited the sensitivity and quantitative nature of fire-fly luciferase (LUC) to examine expression levels in further detail. Fusing the 26 N-terminal residues derived from chloramphenicol acetyl transferase (DeltaCAT) to LUC permits efficient transient or stable luciferase expression in transgenic parasite tachyzoites, providing a useful reporter for studies in T. gondii. Site-directed mutagenesis was used to alter the second codon of DeltaCAT-LUC to encode all 20 possible amino acids, and these constructs showed that changes in the second amino acid can have dramatic effects on luciferase activity, with Ala, Glu, and Asp codons yielding the highest expression levels. Similar results were observed for the expression of both GFP and the T. gondii HXGPRT gene, demonstrating the generality of this effect.
Article: Bioluminescence imaging of Toxoplasma gondii infection in living mice reveals dramatic differences between strains.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: We examined the in vivo growth, dissemination, and reactivation of strains of the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii using a bioluminescence-based imaging system. Two T. gondii strains, one with a highly virulent disease phenotype in mice (S23) and the other with a 1,000-fold-lower virulence phenotype (S22), were engineered to stably express the light-emitting protein luciferase. One clone of each wild-type strain was isolated, and the two clones (S23-luc7 and S22-luc2) were found to express similar levels of luciferase. Mice were infected intraperitoneally with S23-luc7 (50 or 5 parasites) or S22-luc2 (500, 50, or 5 parasites), and the progress of the infections was examined noninvasively following injection of the substrate for luciferase, d-luciferin. In mice infected with 50 S23-luc7 parasites, the parasites grew exponentially within the peritoneal cavity (as measured by light emitted from luciferase-expressing parasites) during days 1 to 10 p.i., and this proliferation continued until there was severe disease. In mice infected with 500 S22-luc2 parasites, the parasites proliferated in a fashion similar to the S23-luc7 proliferation during days 1 to 6, but this was followed by a precipitous drop in the signal to levels below the limit of detection. Using this technique, we were also able to observe the process of reactivation of T. gondii in chronically infected mice. After treatment with dexamethasone, we detected reactivation of toxoplasmosis in mice infected with S23-luc7 and S22-luc2. During reactivation, growth of S23-luc7 was initially detected primarily in the head and neck area, while in S22-luc2-infected mice the parasites were detected primarily in the abdomen. This method has great potential for identifying important differences in the dissemination and growth of different T. gondii strains, especially strains with dramatically different disease outcomes.Infection and Immunity 03/2005; 73(2):695-702. · 4.16 Impact Factor
Article: Development of a system to study CD4+-T-cell responses to transgenic ovalbumin-expressing Toxoplasma gondii during toxoplasmosis.[show abstract] [hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: The study of the immune response to Toxoplasma gondii has provided numerous insights into the role of T cells in resistance to intracellular infections. However, the complexity of this eukaryote pathogen has made it difficult to characterize immunodominant epitopes that would allow the identification of T cells with a known specificity for parasite antigens. As a consequence, analysis of T-cell responses to T. gondii has been based on characterization of the percentage of T cells that express an activated phenotype during infection and on the ability of these cells to produce cytokines in response to complex mixtures of parasite antigens. In order to study specific CD4(+) T cells responses to T. gondii, recombinant parasites that express a truncated ovalbumin (OVA) protein, in either a cytosolic or a secreted form, were engineered. In vitro and in vivo studies reveal that transgenic parasites expressing secreted OVA are able to stimulate T-cell receptor-transgenic OVA-specific CD4(+) T cells to proliferate, express an activated phenotype, and produce gamma interferon (IFN-gamma). Furthermore, the adoptive transfer of OVA-specific T cells into IFN-gamma(-/-) mice provided enhanced protection against infection with the OVA-transgenic (but not parental) parasites. Together, these studies establish the utility of this transgenic system to study CD4(+)-T-cell responses during toxoplasmosis.Infection and Immunity 01/2005; 72(12):7240-6. · 4.16 Impact Factor