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ATF6β is a host cellular target of the Toxoplasma gondii virulence factor ROP18. (Kiyoshi Takeda & Masahiro Yamamoto in JEM)
The ROP18 kinase has been identified as a key virulence determinant conferring a high mortality phenotype characteristic of type I Toxoplasma gondii strains. This major effector molecule is secreted by the rhoptries into the host cells during invasion; however, the molecular mechanisms by which this kinase exerts its pathogenic action remain poorly understood. In this study, the authors show that ROP18 targets the host endoplasmic reticulum-bound transcription factor ATF6β. Disruption of the ROP18 gene severely impairs acute toxoplasmosis by the type I RH strain. Because another virulence factor ROP16 kinase modulates immune responses through its N-terminal portion, the authors focus on the role of the N terminus of ROP18 in the subversion of host cellular functions. The N-terminal extension of ROP18 contributes to ATF6β-dependent pathogenicity by interacting with ATF6β and destabilizing it. The kinase activity of ROP18 is essential for proteasome-dependent degradation of ATF6β and for parasite virulence. Consistent with a key role for ATF6β in resistance against this intracellular pathogen, ATF6β-deficient mice exhibit a high susceptibility to infection by ROP18-deficient parasites. The results reveal that interference with ATF6β-dependent immune responses is a novel pathogenic mechanism induced by ROP18.
Laboratory of Mucosal Immunology
Immunology Frontier Research Center (IFReC), Osaka University