Toxoplasma gondii uses sulfated proteoglycans for substrate and host cell attachment

Vern B. Carruthers, Sebastian Håkansson, Olivia K. Giddings, L. David Sibley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

126 Scopus citations


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that actively invades a wide variety of vertebrate cells, although the basis of this pervasive cell recognition is not understood. We demonstrate here that binding to the substratum and to host cells is partially mediated by interaction with sulfated glycosaminoglycans (GAGs). Addition of excess soluble GAGs blocked parasite attachment to serum-coated glass, thereby preventing gliding motility of extracellular parasites. Similarly, excess soluble GAGs decreased the attachment of parasites to human host cells from a variety of lineages, including monocytic, fibroblast, endothelial, epithelial, and macrophage cells. The inhibition of parasite attachment by GAGs was observed with heparin and heparan sulfate and also with chondroitin sulfates, indicating that the ligands for attachment are capable of recognizing a broad range of GAGs. The importance of sulfated proteoglycan recognition was further supported by the demonstration that GAG-deficient mutant host cells, and wild-type cells treated enzymatically to remove GAGs, were partially resistant to parasite invasion. Collectively, these studies reveal that sulfated proteoglycans are one determinant used for substrate and cell recognition by Toxoplasma. The widespread distribution of these receptors may contribute to the broad host and tissue ranges of this highly successful intracellular parasite.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4005-4011
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2000


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