Understanding the mechanisms by which anti-parasitic drugs alter the physiology and ultimately kill is an important area of investigation. Development of novel parasitic drugs, as well as the continued utilization of existing drugs in the face of resistant parasite populations, requires such knowledge. Here we show that the anti-coccidial drug monensin kills Toxoplasma gondii by inducing autophagy in the parasites, a novel mechanism of cell death in response to an antimicrobial drug. Monensin treatment results autophagy, as shown by translocation of ATG8 to autophagosomes, as well as causing marked morphological changes in the parasites' mitochondria. Use of the autophagy inhibitor 3-methyladenine blocks autophagy and mitochondrial alterations, and enhances parasite survival, in monensin-exposed parasites, although it does not block other monensin-induced effects on the parasites, such as late S-phase cell cycle arrest. Monensin does not induce autophagy in a parasite strain deficient in the mitochondrial DNA repair enzyme TgMSH-1 an enzyme that mediates monensin-induced late S-phase arrest. TgMSH-1 therefore either mediates cell cycle arrest and autophagy independently, or autophagy occurs downstream of cell cycle arrest in a manner analogous to apoptosis of cells arrested in G2 of the cell cycle. Overall, our results point to autophagy as a potentially important mode of cell death of protozoan parasites in response to antimicrobial drugs and indicate that disruption of the autophagy pathway could result in drug resistance.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
- Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)