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An unusual and physiologically vital protein with guanylate cyclase and P-type ATPase like domain in a pathogenic protist:

Gnay-Esiyok, ;Scheib, U;Noll, M;Gupta, N;

Cyclic GMP is considered as one of the master regulators of diverse functions in eukaryotes; its architecture and functioning in protozoans remain poorly understood however. We characterized an unusual and extra-large guanylate cyclase (477-kDa) containing at least 4 putative P-type ATPase motifs and 21 transmembrane helices in a common parasitic protist, Toxoplasma gondii. This protein, termed as TgATPaseP-GC due to its anticipated multi-functionality, localizes in the plasma membrane at the apical pole, while the corresponding cGMP-dependent protein kinase (TgPKG) is distributed in cytomembranes. Both proteins are expressed constitutively during the entire lytic cycle of the parasite in human cells, which suggests a post-translational control of cGMP signaling. Homology modeling indicated an activation of guanylate cyclase by heterodimerization of its two cyclase domains. TgATPaseP-GC is refractory to genetic deletion, and its CRISPR/Cas9-mediated disruption aborts the lytic cycle. Likewise, Cre/loxP-regulated knockdown of the TgATPaseP-GC by 3-UTR excision inhibited the parasite growth due to impairments in motility-dependent egress and invasion events. Consistently, cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase inhibitors restored the gliding motility of the mutant. A genetic repression of TgPKG, or its pharmacological inhibition phenocopied the defects observed in the TgATPaseP-GC mutant. Our data show a vital function of cGMP signaling, which is inducted by an alveolate-specific guanylate cyclase coupled to P-type like ATPase, and transduced by a dedicated PKG in T. gondii. The presence of TgATPaseP-GC orthologs in many other alveolates with contrasting habitats implies a divergent functional repurposing of cGMP signaling in protozoans. The work also lays an avenue to systematically dissect the cascade and understand its evolution in a model protist.