In vitro production of cat-restricted Toxoplasma pre-sexual stages byepigenetic reprogramming

Antunes A. V.et al.

Sexual reproduction of , which is restricted to the small intestine of felids, is sparsely documented, due to ethical concerns surrounding the use of cats as model organisms. Chromatin modifiers dictate the developmental fate of the parasite during its multistage life cycle, but their targeting to stage-specific cistromes is poorly described . In this study, we found that transcription factors AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2, expressed in tachyzoite stage that causes acute toxoplasmosis, can silence genes necessary for merozoites, a developmental stage critical for sexual commitment and transmission to the next host, including humans. Their conditional and simultaneous depletion leads to a drastic change in the transcriptional program, promoting a complete transition from tachyzoites to merozoites. Pre-gametes produced under these conditions are characterized by specific protein markers and undergo typical asexual endopolygenic division cycles. In tachyzoites, AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2 bind DNA as heterodimers at merozoite promoters and recruit the epigenitors MORC and HDAC3 , which in turn restrict the accessibility of chromatin to the transcriptional machinery. Thus, the commitment to merogony stems from a profound epigenetic rewiring orchestrated by AP2XII-1 and AP2XI-2. This effective culture of merozoites paves the way to explore sexual reproduction without the need to infect kittens and has potential for the development of therapeutics to block parasite transmission.

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January, 2023


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