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Title: Structural insights into host cell adhesion by Toxoplasma gondii MIC4
Author: Cowper, Ben
ISNI:       0000 0004 2724 0098
Awarding Body: Imperial College London
Current Institution: Imperial College London
Date of Award: 2012
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Toxoplasma gondii is a highly pervasive protozoan parasite, capable of infecting almost all mammals, including humans. Infection can have fatal consequences for immuno-suppressed individuals, whilst transmission to a developing fetus can induce a spontaneous abortion in pregnant females. T. gondii is perceived to be a model organism in the study of its phylum, Apicomplexa, which includes the Plasmodium species which cause malaria. Apicomplexans are obligate intracellular parasites, in which a strong host cell attachment is established through surface microneme proteins (MICs). Numerous MICs have been identified in T. gondii, many forming multi-adhesive complexes, such as TgMIC1/4/6, within which TgMIC4 is known to possess host cell binding activity within its C-terminal apple-5 & 6 (A56) domains. Prior to these studies, recombinant TgMIC4-A56 was produced yielding a partially-folded protein capable of binding to galactose. Herein the folded component has been identified as A5, and the solution structure of this domain has been solved via NMR spectroscopy. Carbohydrate microarray experiments have confirmed an ability to bind galactosyl-terminated oligosaccharides, whilst NMR and ITC experiments have enabled extensive characterisation of TgMIC4-A5 binding to a range of ligands. The domain binds particularly strongly to a pentasaccharide fragment from GM1 ganglioside; a potential in vivo receptor. Additionally, chemical shift perturbation data and intermolecular NOEs have been used to drive molecular docking of TgMIC4-A5 and lacto-N-biose (Galβ1→3GlcNac). The resulting structure suggests that the mechanism of galactose discrimination by TgMIC4-A5 is similar to that of other galactose-specific lectins. Combined with collaborating studies, this work aids our overall understanding of TgMIC4 function and encourages speculation as to the precise roles of the protein within T. gondii. In addition to a probable contributory role in the initial stages of host cell invasion, the protein may modulate events downstream of this process, through interactions with galactosylated receptors.
Supervisor: Matthews, Steve ; Cota, Ernesto Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral