A Toxoplasma Prolyl Hydroxylase Mediates Oxygen Stress Responses by Regulating Translation Elongation

As the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii disseminates through its host, it responds to environmental changes by altering its gene expression, metabolism, and other processes. Oxygen is one variable environmental factor, and properly adapting to changes in oxygen levels is critical to prevent the accumulation of reactive oxygen species and other cytotoxic factors. Thus, oxygen-sensing proteins are important, and among these, 2-oxoglutarate-dependent prolyl hydroxylases are highly conserved throughout evolution. Toxoplasmaexpresses two such enzymes, TgPHYa, which regulates the SCF-ubiquitin ligase complex, and TgPHYb. To characterize TgPHYb, we created a Toxoplasma strain that conditionally expresses TgPHYb and report that TgPHYb is required for optimal parasite growth under normal growth conditions. However, exposing TgPHYb-depleted parasites to extracellular stress leads to severe decreases in parasite invasion, which is likely due to decreased abundance of parasite adhesins. Adhesin protein abundance is reduced in TgPHYb-depleted parasites as a result of inactivation of the protein synthesis elongation factor eEF2 that is accompanied by decreased rates of translational elongation. In contrast to most other oxygen-sensing proteins that mediate cellular responses to low O2, TgPHYb is specifically required for parasite growth and protein synthesis at high, but not low, O2 tensions as well as resistance to reactive oxygen species. In vivo, reduced TgPHYb expression leads to lower parasite burdens in oxygen-rich tissues. Taken together, these data identify TgPHYb as a sensor of high O2 levels, in contrast to TgPHYa, which supports the parasite at low O2

IMPORTANCE Because oxygen plays a key role in the growth of many organisms, cells must know how much oxygen is available. O2-sensing proteins are therefore critical cellular factors, and prolyl hydroxylases are the best-studied type of O2-sensing proteins. In general, prolyl hydroxylases trigger cellular responses to decreased oxygen availability. But, how does a cell react to high levels of oxygen? Using the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, we discovered a prolyl hydroxylase that allows the parasite to grow at elevated oxygen levels and does so by regulating protein synthesis. Loss of this enzyme also reduces parasite burden in oxygen-rich tissues, indicating that sensing both high and low levels of oxygen impacts the growth and physiology of Toxoplasma.

Celia Florimond, Charlotte Cordonnier, Rahil Taujale, Hanke van der Wel, Natarajan Kannan, Christopher M. West, Ira J. Blader. 2019. MBio.;10(2). pii: e00234-19. doi: 10.1128/mBio.00234-19.

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