Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Cell and Molecular Biology

First Advisor

Ward, Gary


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that can cause lifethreatening disease in immunocompromised individuals. Host cell invasion is therefore central to the pathology of the disease and parasite survival. Unlike many intracellular pathogens, T. gondii does not enter cells by manipulating the host’s phagocytic machinery; instead, the parasite enters the cell by a process of active penetration. Gliding motility and active penetration are driven by a complex of proteins termed the glideosome. The glideosome consists of four major proteins: TgMyoA, an unconventional myosin XIV, myosin light chain (TgMLC1) and glideosome-associated proteins 45 and 50 (TgGAP45, TgGAP50). TgMyoA has been shown to be essential for parasite motility, but the role of TgMLC1 in regulating myosin function remains unknown. Our lab has identified an inhibitor of T. gondii motility and invasion that results in a post-translational modification (PTM) to TgMLC1. Using molecular genetic and mass spectrometry methods we have shown cysteine 53 and cysteine 58 of TgMLC1 are essential for the modification to occur. To determine if the TgMLC1 PTM alters TgMyoA activity, glideosomes were isolated from DMSO- and 115556-treated parasites. Using an in vitro motility assay we have shown that the TgMyoA actin filament displacement velocities are decreased after 115556 treatment. This is the first evidence that TgMLC1 plays a role in regulating TgMyoA activity. The TgMLC1 PTM is responsible, at least in part, for the invasion and motility defects seen in the parasite after compound treatment. During the course of our investigations we have shown that TgMLC1 is dimethylated on lysine 95. This is an unusual modification for cytosolic proteins and has not been previously described for MLCs. Experiments using parasites expressing a non-methylatable form of TgMLC1 (TgMLC1-K95A) show that dimethylation is not necessary for TgMLC1 peripheral localization, TgMLC1 protein-protein interactions and is not required for TgMyoA activity in vitro. However, TgMLC1-K95A does not appear to be phosphoryalted indicating that TgMLC1 dimethylation is necessary for efficient phosphorylation of TgMLC1. These experiments will provide new insight into the ways in which TgMLC1 regulates this unconventional myosin motor complex.