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Study of unique parasite kinase as potential drug target

et al. Adeline Ribeiro E. Silva

Microbiology Spectrum


Eimeria tenella is an obligate intracellular parasite responsible for avian coccidiosis. Like other apicomplexan parasites, such as Toxoplasma gondii, cell invasion and intracellular development rely on apical organelle content discharge, named micronemes and rhoptries.

Some rhoptry (ROP) kinases (ROPK) are key virulence factors in T. gondii. To date, among the 28 ropk genes carried by E. tenella, only two to four were confirmed by proteomic analysis or immunostaining to be expressed at the sporozoite stage. We have previously shown that EtROP1 is implicated in the inhibition of host cell apoptosis by interacting with the cellular p53.

This work functionally described the second ROP kinase expressed at the sporozoite stage in E. tenella. EtROP2 is an active kinase that phosphorylates cell substrates of approximately 50 kDa. Its overexpression leads to the shortening of the prepatent period and to the early development of first-generation schizonts.

Conduction of RNA sequencing analysis and reverse transcriptase quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) on the host cell allowed us to identify the mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) pathway and the transcription factor cFos to be upregulated by EtROP2. We also showed by immunofluorescence assay that the active kinase EtROP2 is implicated in the p38 MAPK pathway activation.

We established here that EtROP2 activates the p38 MAPK pathway through a direct or indirect phosphorylation, leading to the overexpression of the master transcription factor cFos known to be implicated in E. tenella development.


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