Utilization of inherent miRNAs in functional analyses of Toxoplasma gondii genes

Document Type


Publication Date


Publication Title

J Microbiol Methods



First Page



Toxoplasma; miRNA mimic; miRNA inhibitor; Genetic tool; Gene modulation

Last Page



MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are crucial genetic effectors partaking in numerous mechanisms of gene regulation in eukaryotic organisms. Recent discoveries of miRNA in Toxoplasma gondii, an intracellular obligate parasite of the phylum Apicomplexa, suggested possible roles of T. gondii miRNAs (Tg-miRNAs) in the post-transcriptional gene regulation and in the cell biology of the parasite. To gain a better understanding of the involvement of Tg-miRNAs in regulating the parasite gene expression, a dual luciferase reporter system was used in the examination and evaluation of the effects of endogenous Tg-miRNAs, their mimics and inhibitors. A Renilla luciferase (Rnluc) transcript was engineered to carry independent binding sites of two abundant species, namely Tg-miR-60a and Tg-miR-4a, so that the expression of Rnluc was silenced in a sequence specific manner byTg-miR-60a and Tg-miR-4a. Notably, Tg-miR-60a, but not Tg-miR-4a, caused the levels of Rnluc transcripts to decrease. These findings strongly suggested that T. gondiiemploys the Tg-miRNA species-specific mode of silencing actions: transcript degradation by Tg-miR-60a, and translational suppression by Tg-miR-4a. Herein we developed a genetic system that exploits and directs the most abundant Tg-miR-60a for loss-of-function analyses in T. gondii. As a proof of principle, we showed that when the binding sites for Tg-miR-60a were introduced into the parasite transcripts via homologous recombination at the locus of (i) DEAD-box RNA helicase (TgHoDI), or (ii) lactate dehydrogenase isoform 1 (TgLDH1), the expression levels of the selected genes can be altered. It was thus proven that inherit Tg-miR-60a could be directed and used to assist in the loss-of-function analyses.



Funding Reference Number



This work was supported by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to SA (grant number 222969); University of Windsor Doctoral Entrance Scholarship to AKC; and King Abdullah Scholarship Program, Ministry of Higher Education (Saudi Arabia) to EM.