University of Vermont

Toxoplasma invasion: the parasitophorous vacuole is formed from host cell plasma membrane and pinches off via a fission pore


Most intracellular pathogens avoid lysing their host cells during invasion by wrapping themselves in a vacuolar membrane. This parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) is often retained, serving as a critical transport interface between the parasite and the host cell cytoplasm. To test whether the PVM formed by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii is derived from host cell membrane or from lipids secreted by the parasite, we used time-resolved capacitance measurements and video microscopy to assay host cell surface area during invasion. We observed no significant change in host cell surface area during PVM formation, demonstrating that the PVM consists primarily of invaginated host cell membrane. Pinching off of the PVM from the host cell membrane occurred after an unexpected delay (34-305 sec) and was seen as a 0.219 +/- 0.006 pF drop in capacitance, which corresponds well to the predicted surface area of the entire PVM (30-33 microns2). The formation and closure of a fission pore connecting the extracellular medium and the vacuolar space was detected as the PVM pinched off. This final stage of parasite entry was accomplished without any breach in cell membrane integrity.

Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 93:8413-8418