Targeted disruption of the GRA2 locus in Toxoplasma gondii decreases acute virulence in mice

Corinne Mercier, Daniel K. Howe, Dana Mordue, Maren Lingnau, L. David Sibley

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

89 Scopus citations


Following invasion into the host cell, the protozoan Toxoplasma gondii secretes a variety of proteins that modify the parasitophorous vacuole. Within the vacuole, the 28-kDa dense granule protein known as GRA2 is specifically targeted to the tubulovesicular network which forms connections with the vacuolar membrane. To investigate the importance of GRA2, we derived from strain RH a mutant T. gondii line in which GRA2 was disrupted by replacement with the marker Ble (selecting for phleomycin resistance). The Δgra2 mutant invaded and grew normally in both fibroblasts and macrophages in vitro; however, it was less virulent during acute infection in mice. The survival rate of mice inoculated with Δgra2 was significantly higher; some infected mice survived the acute infection, whereas all mice infected with the wild-type strain RH succumbed to early death. Chronic infection by Δgra2 was detected by positive serology, immunohistochemical detection of parasites and cysts in the brain, and reisolation of parasites by bioassay at 6 weeks postinfection. Thus, absence of GRA2 partially attenuates the virulence of T. gondii during the acute phase of infection and allows for establishment of chronic infection by the otherwise highly virulent RH strain. These results establish that GRA2 plays an important role during in vivo infection and provide a potential model for examining acute pathogenesis by T. gondii.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4176-4182
Number of pages7
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1998

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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