University of Vermont

Blocking palmitoylation of Toxoplasma gondii myosin light chain 1 disrupts glideosome composition but has little impact on parasite motility


Toxoplasma gondii is a widespread apicomplexan parasite that causes severe disease in immunocompromised individuals and the developing fetus. Like other apicomplexans, T. gondii uses an unusual form of substrate-dependent gliding motility to invade cells of its hosts and to disseminate throughout the body during infection. It is well established that a myosin motor consisting of a class XIVa heavy chain (TgMyoA) and two light chains (TgMLC1 and TgELC1 or TgELC2) plays an important role in parasite motility. The ability of the motor to generate force at the parasite periphery is thought to be reliant upon its anchoring and immobilization within a peripheral membrane-bound compartment, the inner membrane complex (IMC). The motor does not insert into the IMC directly; rather, this interaction is believed to be mediated by the binding of TgMLC1 to the IMC-anchored protein, TgGAP45. Therefore, the binding of TgMLC1 to TgGAP45 is considered a key element in the force transduction machinery of the parasite. TgMLC1 is palmitoylated, and we show here that palmitoylation occurs on two N-terminal cysteine residues, C8 and C11. Mutations that block TgMLC1 palmitoylation completely abrogate the binding of TgMLC1 to TgGAP45. Surprisingly, the loss of TgMLC1 binding to TgGAP45 in these mutant parasites has little effect on their ability to initiate or sustain movement. These results question a key tenet of the current model of apicomplexan motility and suggest that our understanding of gliding motility in this important group of human and animal pathogens is not yet complete.

mSphere 6: e00823