Association of host cell endoplasmic reticulum and mitochondria with the Toxoplasma grondii parasitophorous vacuole membrane: A high affinity interaction

Anthony P. Sinai, Paul Webster, Keith A. Joiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

231 Scopus citations


The parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM) of the obligate intracellular protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii forms tight associations with host mitochondria and the endoplasmic reticulum (ER). We have used a combination of morphometric and biochemical approaches to characterize this unique phenomenon, which we term PVM-organelle association. The PVM is separated from associated mitochondria and ER by a mean distance of 12 and 18 nm, respectively. The establishment of PVM-organelle association is dependent on active parasite entry, but does not require parasite viability for its maintenance. Association is not a consequence of spatial constraints imposed on the growing vacuole. Morphometric analysis indicates that the extent of mitochondrial association with the PVM stays constant as the vacuole enlarges, whereas the extent of ER association decreases. Disruption of host cell microtubules partially blocks the establishment but not the maintenance of PVM-mitochondrial association, and has no significant effect on PVM-ER association. PVM-organelle association is maintained following disruption of infected host cells, as assessed by electron microscopy and by sub-cellular fractionation showing co-migration of fixed PVM and organelle markers. Taken together, the data suggest that a high affinity, potentially protein-protein interaction between parasite and organelle components is responsible for PVM-organelle association.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2117-2128
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Cell Science
Issue number17
StatePublished - Oct 25 1997
Externally publishedYes



  • Endoplasmic reticulum
  • Mitochondria
  • Parasitophorous vacuole membrane
  • Toxoplasma gondii

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cell Biology

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