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Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(9):1126-1137. doi:10.7150/ijbs.21247

Research Paper

Host Cell Vimentin Restrains Toxoplasma gondii Invasion and Phosphorylation of Vimentin is Partially Regulated by Interaction with TgROP18

Cheng He, Ling Kong, Lijuan Zhou, Jing Xia, Haixia Wei, Min Liu, Hongjuan Peng

Department of Pathogen Biology, Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Tropical Disease Research, School of Public Health, Southern Medical University, Guangzhou, Guangdong Province, 510515, China.


The obligate intracellular parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, manipulates the cytoskeleton of its host cells to facilitate infection. A significant rearrangement of host cell vimentin around Toxoplasma parasitophorous vacuoles is observed during the course of infection. ROP18 (TgROP18) is a serine-threonine kinase secreted by T. gondii rhoptry and a major virulence factor; however, the mechanisms by which this kinase modulates host factors remain poorly understood. Different and dynamic patterns of vimentin solubility, phosphorylation, and expression levels were observed in host cells infected with T. gondii strain RH and RH Δrop18 strains, suggesting that TgROP18 contributes to the regulation of these dynamic patterns. Additionally, host cell vimentin was demonstrated to interact with and be phosphorylated by TgROP18. A significant increase in T. gondii infection rate was observed in vimentin knockout human brain microvessel endothelial cells (HBMEC), while vimentin knockout or knock down in host cells had no impact on parasite proliferation and egress. These results indicate that host cell vimentin can inhibit T. gondii invasion. Interestingly, western blotting of different mouse tissues indicated that the lowest vimentin expression level was present in the brain, which may explain the mechanism underlying the nervous system tropism of T. gondii, and the phenomenon of huge cyst burdens developing in the mouse brain during chronic infection.

Keywords: Toxoplasma gondii, Vimentin, TgROP18, Phosphorylation, Reorganization, Tropism.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
How to cite this article:
He C, Kong L, Zhou L, Xia J, Wei H, Liu M, Peng H. Host Cell Vimentin Restrains Toxoplasma gondii Invasion and Phosphorylation of Vimentin is Partially Regulated by Interaction with TgROP18. Int J Biol Sci 2017; 13(9):1126-1137. doi:10.7150/ijbs.21247. Available from