Microsporidia are obligate intracellular parasites that infect a wide variety of host organisms, including humans. The sporoplasm is the initial stage of microsporidian infection and proliferation, but its morphological and molecular characteristics are poorly understood. In this study, the sporoplasm of Nosema bombycis was successfully isolated and characterized after the induction of spore germination in vitro. The sporoplasm was spherical, 3.64 Ϯ 0.41 m in diameter, had the typical two nuclei, and was nonrefractive. Scanning and transmission electron microscopy analyses revealed that the sporoplasm was surrounded by a single membrane, and the cytoplasm was usually filled with relatively homogeneous granules, possibly ribosomes, and contained a vesicular structure comprising a concentric ring and coiled tubules. Propidium iodide staining revealed that the sporoplasm membrane showed stronger membrane permeability than did the cell plasma membrane. Transmission electron microscopy (TEM) revealed that the sporoplasm can gain entry to the host cell by phagocytosis. Transcriptome analysis of mature spores and sporoplasms showed that 541 significantly differentially expressed genes were screened (adjusted P value [P adj ] Ͻ 0.05), of which 302 genes were upregulated and 239 genes were downregulated in the sporoplasm. The majority of the genes involved in trehalose synthesis metabolism, glycolysis, and the pentose phosphate pathway were downregulated, whereas 10 transporter genes were upregulated, suggesting that the sporoplasm may inhibit its own carbon metabolic activity and obtain the substances required for proliferation through transporter proteins. This study represents the first comprehensive and in-depth investigation of the sporoplasm at the morphological and molecular levels and provides novel insights into the biology of microsporidia and their infection mechanism. IMPORTANCE Once awoken from dormancy, the cellular matter of microsporidia is delivered directly into the host cell cytoplasm through the polar tube. This means that the microsporidia are difficult to study biologically in their active state without a contaminating signal from the host cell. Sporoplasm is a cell type of microsporidia in vitro, but relatively little attention has been paid to the sporoplasm in the past 150 years due to a lack of an effective separation method. Nosema bombycis, the first reported microsporidium, is a type of obligate intracellular parasite that infects silkworms and can be induced to germinate in alkaline solution in vitro. We successfully separated the N. bombycis sporoplasm in vitro, and the morphological and structural characteristics were investigated. These results provide important insight into the biology and pathogenesis of microsporidia and potentially provide a possible strategy for genetic manipulation of microsporidia targeting the sporoplasm.
Microsporidia are ubiquitous fungi-related parasites infecting nearly all vertebrates and invertebrates. Microsporidian Nosema bombycis is a natural pathogen of multiple insects, including the silkworm and many agricultural and forest pests. N. bombycis can transovarially transmit in silkworm and cause huge economic losses to the sericulture. However, it remains unclear whether N. bombycis vertically transmits in the crop pests Spodoptera litura and Helicoverpa armigera. Here, we investigated the infection of N. bombycis in S. litura and H. armigera to illuminate its infectivity and transovarial transmission. In result, tissue examination with light microscopy revealed that the fat body, midgut, malpighian tubules, hemolymph, testis, and ovary were all infected in both pest pupae. Immunohistochemical analysis (IHA) of the ovariole showed that a large number of parasites in maturation and proliferation presented in follicle cell, nurse cell, and oocyte, suggesting that N. bombycis can infect and multiply in these cells and probably transovarially transmit to the next generations in both pests. Microscopic examination on the egg infection rate demonstrated that 50% and 38% of the S. litura and H. armigera eggs were congenitally infected, respectively. IHA of both eggs manifested numerous spores and proliferative pathogens in the oocyte, confirming that N. bombycis can invade into the female germ cell from the parent body. After hatching of the infected eggs, we detected the infection in offspring larvae and found large quantities of proliferative pathogens, confirming that N. bombycis can transovarially transmit in S. litura and H. armigera, and probably persists in both pest populations via congenital infection. In summary, our work, for the first time, proved that N. bombycis is able to vertically transmit in S. litura and H. armigera via infecting the oocyte in the parent, suggesting that N. bombycis could be a biological insecticide for controlling the population of crop pests.
Microsporidia are a group of obligated intracellular parasites that can infect nearly all vertebrates and invertebrates, including humans and economic animals. Microsporidian Vairimorpha necatrix is a natural pathogen of multiple insects and can massively proliferate by making tumor-like xenoma in host tissue. However, little is known about the subcellular structures of this xenoma and the proliferation features of the pathogens inside. Here, we characterized the V. necatrix xenoma produced in muscle cells of silkworm midgut. In result, the whitish xenoma was initially observed on the 12th day post infection on the outer surface of the midgut and later became larger and numerous. The observation by scanning electronic microscopy showed that the xenoma is mostly elliptical and spindle with dense pathogen-containing protrusions and spores on the surface, which were likely shedding off the xenoma through exocytosis and could be an infection source of other tissues. Demonstrated with transmission electron microscopy and fluorescent staining, the xenoma was enveloped by a monolayer membrane, and full of vesicle structures, mitochondria, and endoplasmic reticulum around parasites in development, suggesting that high level of energy and nutrients were produced to support the massive proliferation of the parasites. Multiple hypertrophic nuclei were found in one single xenoma, indicating that the cyst was probably formed by fusion of multiple muscle cells. Observed by fluorescence in situ hybridization, pathogens in the xenoma were in merongony, sporogony, and octosporogony, and mature stages. And mature spores were pushed to the center while vegetative pathogens were in the surface layer of the xenoma. The V. necatrix meront usually contained two to three nuclei, and sporont contained two nuclei and was wrapped by a thick membrane with high electron density. The V. necatrix sporogony produces two types of spores, the ordinary dikaryotic spore and unicellular octospores, the latter of which were smaller in size and packed in a sporophorous vesicle. In summary, V. necatrix xenoma is a specialized cyst likely formed by fusion of multiple muscle cells and provides high concentration of energy and nutrients with increased number of mitochondria and endoplasmic reticulum for the massive proliferation of pathogens inside.
Background: Microsporidia, a group of obligate intracellular parasites that can infect humans and nearly all animals, have lost the pathways for de novo amino acid, lipid and nucleotide synthesis and instead evolved strategies to manipulate host metabolism and immunity. The endoplasmic reticulum (ER) is a vital organelle for producing and processing proteins and lipids and is often hijacked by intracellular pathogens. However, little is known about how microsporidia modulate host ER pathways. Herein, we identified a secreted protein of Encephalitozoon hellem, EhHNTP1, and characterized its subcellular localization and functions in host cells.Methods: A polyclonal antibody against EhHNTP1 was produced to verify the protein subcellular localization in E. hellem-infected cells using indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA) and Western blotting. HEK293 cells were transfected with wild-type or mutant EhHNTP1 fused with HA-EGFP, and the impacts on pathogen proliferation, protein subcellular localization and sequence functions were assessed. RNA sequencing of EhHNTP1-transfected cells was conducted to identify differentially expressed genes (DEGs) and pathway responses by bioinformatics analysis mainly with R packages. The DEGs in the transfected cells were experimentally confirmed with RT-qPCR and Western blotting. The regulatory effects of candidate DEGs were analyzed via RNA interference and cell transfection, and the effects were determined with RT-qPCR and Western blotting.Results: EhHNTP1 is secreted into the host nucleus, and its translocation depends on a nuclear localization signal sequence (NLS) at the C-terminus from amino acids 239 to 250. Transfection and overexpression of EhHNTP1 in HEK293 cells significantly promoted pathogen proliferation. RNA-seq of the transfected cells showed that genes involved in ER-associated degradation (ERAD), a quality control mechanism that allows for the targeted degradation of proteins in the ER, were prominently upregulated. Upregulation of the ERAD genes PDIA4, HERP, HSPA5 and Derlin3 determined by RNA-seq data was verified using RT-qPCR and Western blotting. Protein ubiquitination in the transfected cells was then assayed and found to be markedly increased, confirming the activation of ERAD. PDIA4 knockdown with RNAi significantly suppressed the expression of HERP, indicating that PDIA4 is a vital ERAD component exploited by EhHNTP1. Moreover, EhHNTP1ΔHRD, a deletion mutant lacking the histidine-rich domain (HRD) in the C-terminus, predominantly suppressed the upregulation of ERAD genes, indicating that the HRD is essential for EhHNTP1 functions.Conclusion: This study is the first report on a microsporidian secretory protein that targets the host nucleus to upregulate the ERAD pathway and subsequently promote protein ubiquitination. Our work provides new insights into microsporidia-host interactions.
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