Rop16-mediated activation of stat6 suppresses host cell reactive oxygen species production, facilitating type iii toxoplasma gondii growth and survival

Joshua A. Kochanowsky, Kaitlin K. Thomas, Anita A. Koshy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Polymorphic effector proteins determine the susceptibility of Toxoplasma gondii strains to IFN-γ-mediated clearance mechanisms deployed by murine host cells. However, less is known about the influence of these polymorphic effector proteins on IFN-γ-independent clearance mechanisms. Here, we show that deletion of one such polymorphic effector protein, ROP16, from a type III background leads to a defect in parasite growth and survival in unstimulated human fibroblasts and murine macrophages. Rescue of these defects requires a ROP16 with a functional kinase domain and the abil-ity to activate a specific family of host cell transcription factors (STAT3, 5a, and 6). The growth and survival defects correlate with an accumulation of host cell reactive oxygen species (ROS) and are prevented by treatment with an ROS inhibitor. Exogenous activation of STAT3 and 6 suppresses host cell ROS production during infection with ROP16-deficient parasites and depletion of STAT6, but not STAT3 or 5a, causes an accumulation of ROS in cells infected with wild-type parasites. Pharmacological inhibition of NOX2 and mitochondrially derived ROS also rescues growth and survival of ROP16-defi-cient parasites. Collectively, these findings reveal an IFN-γ-independent mechanism of parasite restriction in human cells that is subverted by injection of ROP16 by type III parasites. IMPORTANCE Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that infects up to one-third of the world’s population. Control of the parasite is largely accomplished by IFN-γ-dependent mechanisms that stimulate innate and adaptive immune responses. Parasite suppression of IFN-γ-stimulated responses has been linked to proteins that the parasite secretes into its host cell. These secreted proteins vary by T. gondii strain and determine strain-specific lethality in mice. How these strain-specific polymorphic effector proteins affect IFN-γ-independent parasite control mechanisms in human and murine cells is not well known. This study shows that one such secreted protein, ROP16, enables efficient parasite growth and survival by suppress-ing IFN-γ-independent production of ROS by human and mouse cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere03305-20
Pages (from-to)1-17
Number of pages17
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021


  • Innate immunity
  • ROP16
  • Reactive oxygen species
  • STAT transcription factors
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Microbiology
  • Virology


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