Toxoplasma gondii GRA28 Is Required for Placenta-Specific Induction of the Regulatory Chemokine CCL22 in Human and Mouse.

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Toxoplasma gondii is an intracellular protozoan pathogen of humans that can cross the placenta and result in adverse pregnancy outcomes and long-term birth defects. The mechanisms used by T. gondii to cross the placenta are unknown, but complex interactions with the host immune response are likely to play a role in dictating infection outcomes during pregnancy. Prior work showed that T. gondii infection dramatically and specifically increases the secretion of the immunomodulatory chemokine CCL22 in human placental cells during infection. Given the important role of this chemokine during pregnancy, we hypothesized that CCL22 induction was driven by a specific T. gondii-secreted effector. Using a combination of bioinformatics and molecular genetics, we have now identified T. gondii GRA28 as the gene product required for CCL22 induction. GRA28 is secreted into the host cell, where it localizes to the nucleus, and deletion of the GRA28 gene results in reduced CCL22 placental cells as well as a human monocyte cell line. The impact of GRA28 on CCL22 production is also conserved in mouse immune and placental cells both in vitro and in vivo. Moreover, parasites lacking GRA28 are impaired in their ability to disseminate throughout the animal, suggesting a link between CCL22 induction and the ability of the parasite to cause disease. Overall, these data demonstrate a clear function for GRA28 in altering the immunomodulatory landscape during infection of both placental and peripheral immune cells and show a clear impact of this immunomodulation on infection outcome. IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma gondii is a globally ubiquitous pathogen that can cause severe disease in HIV/AIDS patients and can also cross the placenta and infect the developing fetus. We have found that placental and immune cells infected with T. gondii secrete significant amounts of a chemokine (called CCL22) that is critical for immune tolerance during pregnancy. In order to better understand whether this is a response by the host or a process that is driven by the parasite, we have identified a T. gondii gene that is absolutely required to induce CCL22 production in human cells, indicating that CCL22 production is a process driven almost entirely by the parasite rather than the host. Consistent with its role in immune tolerance, we also found that T. gondii parasites lacking this gene are less able to proliferate and disseminate throughout the host. Taken together, these data illustrate a direct relationship between CCL22 levels in the infected host and a key parasite effector and provide an interesting example of how T. gondii can directly modulate host signaling pathways in order to facilitate its growth and dissemination.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Rudzki, EN; Ander, SE; Coombs, RS; Alrubaye, HS; Cabo, LF; Blank, ML; Gutiérrez-Melo, N; Dubey, JP; Coyne, CB; Boyle, JP

Published Date

  • December 21, 2021

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 12 / 6

Start / End Page

  • e0159121 -

PubMed ID

  • 34781732

Pubmed Central ID

  • PMC8593671

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 2150-7511

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1128/mBio.01591-21


  • eng

Conference Location

  • United States