Inorganic ions such as phosphate, are essential nutrients required for a broad spectrum of cellular functions and regulation. During infection, pathogens must obtain inorganic phosphate (Pi) from the host. Despite the essentiality of phosphate for all forms of life, how the intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii acquires Pi from the host cell is still unknown. In this study, we demonstrated that Toxoplasma actively internalizes exogenous Pi by exploiting a gradient of Na+ ions to drive Pi uptake across the plasma membrane. The Na+-dependent phosphate transport mechanism is electrogenic and functionally coupled to a cipargarmin sensitive Na+-H+-ATPase. Toxoplasma expresses one transmembrane Pi transporter harboring PHO4 binding domains that typify the PiT Family. This transporter named TgPiT, localizes to the plasma membrane, the inward buds of the endosomal organelles termed VAC, and many cytoplasmic vesicles. Upon Pi limitation in the medium, TgPiT is more abundant at the plasma membrane. We genetically ablated the PiT gene, and ΔTgPiT parasites are impaired in importing Pi and synthesizing polyphosphates. Interestingly, ΔTgPiT parasites accumulate 4-times more acidocalcisomes, storage organelles for phosphate molecules, as compared to parental parasites. In addition, these mutants have a reduced cell volume, enlarged VAC organelles, defects in calcium storage and a slightly alkaline pH. Overall, these mutants exhibit severe growth defects and have reduced acute virulence in mice. In survival mode, ΔTgPiT parasites upregulate several genes, including those encoding enzymes that cleave or transfer phosphate groups from phosphometabolites, transporters and ions exchangers localized to VAC or acidocalcisomes. Taken together, these findings point to a critical role of TgPiT for Pi supply for Toxoplasma and also for protection against osmotic stresses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Molecular Biology