Host but not parasite cholesterol controls Toxoplasma cell entry by modulating organelle discharge

Isabelle Coppens, Keith A. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

114 Scopus citations


Host cell cholesterol is implicated in the entry and replication of an increasing number of intracellular microbial pathogens. Although uptake of viral particles via cholesterol-enriched caveolae is increasingly well described, the requirement of cholesterol for internalization of eukaryotic pathogens is poorly understood and is likely to be partly organism specific. We examined the role of cholesterol in active host cell invasion by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii. The parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) surrounding T. gondii contains cholesterol at the time of invasion. Although cholesterol-enriched parasite apical organelles termed rhoptries discharge at the time of cell entry and contribute to PVM formation, surprisingly, rhoptry cholesterol is not necessary for this process. In contrast, host plasma membrane cholesterol is incorporated into the forming PVM during invasion, through a caveolae-independent mechanism. Unexpectedly, depleting host cell plasma membrane cholesterol blocks parasite internalization by reducing the release of rhoptry proteins that are necessary for invasion. Cholesterol back-addition into host plasma membrane reverses this inhibitory effect of depletion on parasite secretion. These data define a new mechanism by which host cholesterol specifically controls entry of an intracellular pathogen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3804-3820
Number of pages17
JournalMolecular biology of the cell
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 1 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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