Our experiments aimed to clarify the mechanism by which host cell apoptosis is inhibited by infection with the intracellular protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). Mouse spleen cells were cultured in 6-well plates with RPMI 1640/10% FBS at 37°C, in a 5% CO2 atmosphere. Apoptosis of spleen cells was induced by actinomycin-D (AD) treatment for 1 h prior to infection with T. gondii. A variety of assays were used to assess the progression of apoptosis: DNA size analysis on agarose gel electrophoresis, flow cytometry with annexin V/PI staining, and analysis of expression levels of Bcl-2 family and NF-κB mRNA and proteins by RT-PCR, Western blotting, and EMSA. Additionally, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) was performed to observe changes in cell morphology. Fragmentation of DNA was inhibited in spleen cells treated with AD and T. gondii 5 h and 18 h post infection, respectively, and flow cytometry studies showed a decreased apoptotic rates in AD and T. gondii treated spleen cells. We observed decreased expression of Bax mRNA and protein, while levels of Bcl-2 mRNA remained constant in spleen cells treated with AD and T. gondii. Caspase 3 and PARP were inactivated in cells treated with AD and T. gondii, and increased levels of cleaved caspase 8 were also observed. Analysis of EMSA and Western blot data suggests that activation of transcription factor NF-κB may be involved in the blockade of apoptosis by T. gondii. TEM analysis showed nuclear fragmentation and chromatin condensation occurring in spleen cells treated with AD; however, such apoptosis-associated morphological changes were not observed in cells treated with both AD and T. gondii tachyzoites. Together, these data show that T. gondii infection inhibits AD induced apoptosis via caspase inactivation and NF-κB activation in mouse spleen cells.
- Bcl-2 family