Respiration and oxidative phosphorylation in the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii

Anibal E. Vercesi, Claudia O. Rodrigues, Sergio A. Uyemura, Li Zhong, Silvia N.J. Moreno

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82 Scopus citations


Respiration, oxidative phosphorylation, and the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨ) of tachyzoites of the apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii were assayed in situ using very low concentrations of digitonin to render their plasma membrane permeable to succinate, ADP, safranin O, and other small molecules. The rate of basal respiration was slightly increased by digitonin when the cells were incubated in medium containing succinate. ADP promoted an oligomycin-sensitive transition from resting to phosphorylating respiration. Respiration was sensitive to antimycin A and cyanide, and N,N,N',N'-tetramethyl-p-phenylenediamine (TMPD) was oxidized by antimycin A-poisoned mitochondria. The addition of ADP after TMPD/ascorbate also resulted in phosphorylating respiration. The antitoxoplasmosis drug atovaquone, at a very low concentration (0.03 μM), totally inhibited respiration and disrupted the mitochondrial membrane potential. Atovaquone was shown to inhibit the respiratory chain of T. gondii and mammalian mitochondria between cytochrome b and el as occurs with antimycin A1. Phosphorylation of ADP could not be obtained in permeabilized tachyzoites in the presence of either pyruvate, 3-oxo-glutarate, glutamate, isocitrate, dihydroorotate, α-glycerophosphate, or endogenous substrates. Although ADP phosphorylation was detected in the presence of malate, this activity was rotenone-insensitive and was probably due to the conversion of malate into succinate through a fumarate reductase activity that was detected in mitochondrial extracts. Together these results provide the first direct biochemical evidence that the respiratory chain and oxidative phosphorylation are functional in apicomplexan parasites, although the terminal respiratory pathway is different from that in the mammalian host.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)31040-31047
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Biological Chemistry
Issue number47
StatePublished - Nov 20 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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