Toxoplasma bradyzoites exhibit physiological plasticity of calcium and energy stores controlling motility and egress

Yong Fu, Kevin M. Brown, Nathaniel G. Jones, Silvia N.J. Moreno, L. David Sibley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Toxoplasma gondii has evolved different developmental stages for disseminating during acute infection (i.e., tachyzoites) and establishing chronic infection (i.e., bradyzoites). Calcium ion (Ca2+) signaling tightly regulates the lytic cycle of tachyzoites by controlling microneme secretion and motility to drive egress and cell invasion. However, the roles of Ca2+ signaling pathways in bradyzoites remain largely unexplored. Here, we show that Ca2+ responses are highly restricted in bradyzoites and that they fail to egress in response to agonists. Development of dual-reporter parasites revealed dampened Ca2+ responses and minimal microneme secretion by bradyzoites induced in vitro or harvested from infected mice and tested ex vivo. Ratiometric Ca2+ imaging demonstrated lower Ca2+ basal levels, reduced magnitude, and slower Ca2+ kinetics in bradyzoites compared with tachyzoites stimulated with agonists. Diminished responses in bradyzoites were associated with downregulation of Ca2+-ATPases involved in intracellular Ca2+ storage in the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) and acidocalcisomes. Once liberated from cysts by trypsin digestion, bradyzoites incubated in glucose plus Ca2+ rapidly restored their intracellular Ca2+ and ATP stores, leading to enhanced gliding. Collectively, our findings indicate that intracellular bradyzoites exhibit dampened Ca2+ signaling and lower energy levels that restrict egress, and yet upon release they rapidly respond to changes in the environment to regain motility.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere73011
StatePublished - Dec 2021


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