An early hallmark of Toxoplasma gondii infection is the rapid control of the parasite population by a potent multifaceted innate immune response that engages resident and homing immune cells along with pro- and counter-inflammatory cytokines. In this context, IFN-γ activates a variety of T. gondii–targeting activities in immune and nonimmune cells but can also contribute to host immune pathology. T. gondii has evolved mechanisms to timely counteract the host IFN-γ defenses by interfering with the transcription of IFN-γ–stimulated genes. We now have identified TgIST (T. gondii inhibitor of STAT1 transcriptional activity) as a critical molecular switch that is secreted by intracellular parasites and traffics to the host cell nucleus where it inhibits STAT1-dependent proinflammatory gene expression. We show that TgIST not only sequesters STAT1 on dedicated loci but also promotes shaping of a nonpermissive chromatin through its capacity to recruit the nucleosome remodeling deacetylase (NuRD) transcriptional repressor. We found that during mice acute infection, TgIST-deficient parasites are rapidly eliminated by the homing Gr1+ inflammatory monocytes, thus highlighting the protective role of TgIST against IFN-γ–mediated killing. By uncovering TgIST functions, this study brings novel evidence on how T. gondii has devised a molecular weapon of choice to take control over a ubiquitous immune gene expression mechanism in metazoans, as a way to promote long-term parasitism.
- Submitted: 3 March 2016
- Accepted: 22 July 2016
This article is distributed under the terms of an Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike–No Mirror Sites license for the first six months after the publication date (see http://www.rupress.org/terms). After six months it is available under a Creative Commons License (Attribution–Noncommercial–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license, as described at http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0/).