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Extracellular Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites metabolize and incorporate unnatural sugars into cellular proteins


Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that infects all nucleated cell types in diverse warm-blooded organisms. Many of the surface antigens and effector molecules secreted by the parasite during invasion and intracellular growth are modified by glycans. Glycosylated proteins in the nucleus and cytoplasm have also been reported. Despite their prevalence, the complete inventory and biological significance of glycosylated proteins in Toxoplasma remain unknown. In this study, we aimed to globally profile parasite glycoproteins using a bioorthogonal chemical reporter strategy. This strategy involves the metabolic incorporation of unnatural functional groups (i.e., "chemical reporters") into Toxoplasma glycans, followed by covalent labeling with visual probes or affinity tags. The two-step approach enables the visualization and identification of newly biosynthesized glycoconjugates in the parasite. Using a buffer that mimics intracellular conditions, extracellular Toxoplasma tachyzoites were found to metabolize and incorporate unnatural sugars (equipped with bioorthogonal functional groups) into diverse proteins. Covalent chemistries were used to visualize and retrieve these labeled structures. Subsequent mass spectrometry analysis revealed 89 unique proteins. This survey identified novel proteins as well as previously characterized proteins from lectin affinity analyses.

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