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Illuminating Host-Parasite Interaction at the Cellular and Subcellular Levels with Infrared Microspectroscopy

Elsheikha, Hany M.; Al-Sandaqchi, Alaa T.; Harun, Mohammad S.R.; Winterton, Francesca; Altharawi, Ali; Elsaied, Nashwa A.; Stevenson, Carl W.; MacNaughtan, William; Mina, John G.M.; Denny, Paul W.; Cinque, Gianfelice; Chan, Ka Lung Andrew

Illuminating Host-Parasite Interaction at the Cellular and Subcellular Levels with Infrared Microspectroscopy Thumbnail


Alaa T. Al-Sandaqchi

Mohammad S.R. Harun

Francesca Winterton

Ali Altharawi

Nashwa A. Elsaied

William MacNaughtan

John G.M. Mina

Paul W. Denny

Gianfelice Cinque

Ka Lung Andrew Chan


Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is an opportunistic protozoan that can cause brain infection and other serious health consequences in immuno-compromised individuals. This parasite has a remarkable ability to cross biological barriers and exploit the host cell microenvironment to support its own survival and growth. Recent advances in label-free spectroscopic imaging techniques have made it possible to study biological systems at a high spatial resolution. In this study, we used conventional Fourier-transform infrared (FTIR) microspectroscopy and synchrotron-based FTIR microspectroscopy to analyze the chemical changes that are associated with infection of human brain microvascular endothelial cells (hBMECs) by T. gondii (RH) tachyzoites. Both FTIR microspectroscopic methods showed utility in revealing the chemical alterations in the infected hBMECs. Using a ZnS hemisphere device, to increase the numerical aperture, and the synchrotron source to increase the brightness, we obtained spatially resolved spectra from within a single cell. The spectra extracted from the nucleus and cytosol containing the tachyzoites were clearly distinguished. RNA sequencing analysis of T. gondii-infected and uninfected hBMECs revealed significant changes in the expression of host cell genes and pathways in response to T. gondii infection. These FTIR spectroscopic and transcriptomic findings provide significant insight into the molecular changes that occur in hBMECs during T. gondii infection.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Feb 22, 2022
Online Publication Date Feb 25, 2022
Publication Date Mar 1, 2022
Deposit Date Mar 26, 2022
Publicly Available Date Mar 29, 2022
Journal Cells
Electronic ISSN 2073-4409
Publisher MDPI AG
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 11
Issue 5
Article Number 811
Keywords General Medicine
Public URL
Publisher URL


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