Toxoplasma gondii is a widespread parasite of warm-blooded vertebrates that also causes opportunistic infections in humans. Rodents are a natural host for asexually replicating forms, whereas cats serve as the definitive host for sexual development. The laboratory mouse provides a model to study pathogenesis. Strains of T. gondii are globally diverse, with more than 16 distinct haplogroups clustered into 6 major clades. Forward genetic analysis of genetic crosses between different lineages has been used to define the molecular basis of acute virulence in the mouse. These studies have identified a family of secretory serine/threonine rhoptry kinases that target innate immune pathways to protect intracellular parasites from destruction. Rhoptry kinases target immunity-related GTPases, a family of immune effectors that is expanded in rodents. Similar forward genetic studies may be useful to define the basis of pathogenesis in other hosts, including humans, where infections of different strains present with variable clinical severity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-81
Number of pages19
JournalAnnual review of microbiology
StatePublished - Sep 8 2016


  • Autophagy
  • GTPase
  • Host range
  • Innate immunity
  • Quantitative trait locus mapping
  • Serine-threonine protein kinase


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