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Secrets of Secretion

Toxoplasma protein Rop1 protects the toxoplasmosis-causing parasite from host immune recognition

14 February 2023

Secrets of Secretion

Like an unwanted visitor that plonks themselves down on your sofa and starts emptying the contents of their bag everywhere, Toxoplasma gondii- the single-celled parasite that causes toxoplasmosis – invades cells and secretes many damaging proteins. To explore how these proteins help the parasite (yellow in the pictured sample of mouse immune cells, pink) cause harm, researchers silenced various genes and observed the impact. When the production of one of these secreted proteins, ROP1, was blocked, the host immune system was able to clear the infection that would’ve been lethal if left unchecked. That suggests that ROP1 helps the parasite evade the immune system, and, importantly, this finding appears to apply to both mouse and human infections. The team also identified a host protein that ROP1 interacts with, pointing the way for future studies to unpick the mechanisms of infection and investigate ways to counter it.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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