Coordinated action of multiple transporters in the acquisition of essential cationic amino acids by the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii

Stephen J. Fairweather, Esther Rajendran, Martin Blume, Kiran Javed, Birte Steinhöfel, Malcolm J. McConville, Kiaran Kirk, Stefan Bröer, Giel G. Van Dooren

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    7 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Intracellular parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa are dependent on the scavenging of essential amino acids from their hosts. We previously identified a large family of apicomplexan-specific plasma membrane-localized amino acid transporters, the ApiATs, and showed that the Toxoplasma gondii transporter TgApiAT1 functions in the selective uptake of arginine. TgApiAT1 is essential for parasite virulence, but dispensable for parasite growth in medium containing high concentrations of arginine, indicating the presence of at least one other arginine transporter. Here we identify TgApiAT6-1 as the second arginine transporter. Using a combination of parasite assays and heterologous characterisation of TgApiAT6-1 in Xenopus laevis oocytes, we demonstrate that TgApiAT6-1 is a general cationic amino acid transporter that mediates both the high-affinity uptake of lysine and the low-affinity uptake of arginine. TgApiAT6-1 is the primary lysine transporter in the disease-causing tachyzoite stage of T. gondii and is essential for parasite proliferation. We demonstrate that the uptake of cationic amino acids by TgApiAT6-1 is 'trans-stimulated' by cationic and neutral amino acids and is likely promoted by an inwardly negative membrane potential. These findings demonstrate that T. gondii has evolved overlapping transport mechanisms for the uptake of essential cationic amino acids, and we draw together our findings into a comprehensive model that highlights the finely-tuned, regulated processes that mediate cationic amino acid scavenging by these intracellular parasites.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article numbere1009835
    JournalPLoS Pathogens
    Volume17
    Issue number8
    DOIs
    Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021

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