Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):458-470. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18644 This issue

Research Paper

Characterization of Cytosine Methylation and the DNA Methyltransferases of Toxoplasma gondii

Haixia Wei, Shichen Jiang, Longfei Chen, Cheng He, Shuizhen Wu, Hongjuan Peng

Department of Pathogen Biology, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Research, and Key Laboratory of Prevention and Control for Emerging Infectious Diseases of Guangdong Higher Institutes, School of Public Health, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 510515, P.R. China.

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Wei H, Jiang S, Chen L, He C, Wu S, Peng H. Characterization of Cytosine Methylation and the DNA Methyltransferases of Toxoplasma gondii. Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(4):458-470. doi:10.7150/ijbs.18644. Available from

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Graphic abstract

DNA methylation is a key epigenetic modification which confers phenotypic plasticity and adaptation. Cyst-forming strains of Toxoplasma gondii undergo tachyzoite to bradyzoite conversion after initial acute infection of a host, and the reverse conversion may occur in immune-suppressed hosts. The formation of m5C is catalyzed by DNA methyltransferase (DNMT). We identified two functional DNA methyltransferases, TgDNMTa and TgDNMTb, in T. gondii that may mediate DNA methylation. The recombinant proteins showed intrinsic methyltransferase activity; both have higher transcription levels in bradyzoites than that in tachyzoites. We performed genome-wide analysis of DNA methylation in tachyzoites and bradyzoites. The results showed more methylation sites in bradyzoites than that in tachyzoites. The most significantly enriched GO-terms of genes with DNA methylation were associated with basal cellular processes such as energy metabolism and parasite resistance to host immunity. Tachyzoite proliferation in parasitophorous vacuoles (PV) can be inhibited by the DNA methyltransferase inhibitor 5-azacytidine, a chemical analogue of the nucleotide cytosine that can inactivate DNA methyltransferases. These findings provide the first confirmation of DNA methylation in T. gondii.

Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii, DNA methylation, tachyzoite, bradyzoite, 5-cytosine methyltransferase, 5-azacytidine.