Parasites Replicate Inside a Host Cell

Parasites Replicate Inside a Host Cell

Alex Chan

Whitehead Institute

Depicted here is a super resolution image of eight Toxoplasma gondii parasites replicating inside of an infected human cell. We’ve specifically labeled and detected two components in these cells: (1) the cellular skeleton of the parasite and its host called microtubules (colored in cyan) and (2) membrane-bound vesicles at the tip of each parasite called micronemes that carry a payload of proteins critical for infection (colored in red). When the parasite is done replicating within a host cell and ready to leave, it coordinates its cellular skeleton with these vesicles to unleash an array of proteins that destroys the host cell and launches the parasite out for it to find a new cell to invade and repeat the process. If the infection is left unchecked, the parasite can cause rapid tissue destruction throughout the body. Understanding how the parasite coordinates these two highlighted components can reveal new vulnerabilities of this group of life-threatening pathogens. 

A rosette-like cluster of cyan ovals tipped in red is surrounded by a web of cyan threads and a cluster of red and cyan cells sits below

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