The initiation and early development of the tubulin-containing cytoskeleton in the human parasite Toxoplasma gondii

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Arias Padilla, L. F.; Murray, J. M.; Hu, K.


The tubulin-containing cytoskeleton of the human parasite Toxoplasma gondii includes several distinct structures: the conoid, formed of 14 ribbon-like tubulin polymers, and the array of 22 cortical microtubules (MTs) rooted in the apical polar ring. Here we analyze the structure of developing daughter parasites using both 3D-SIM and expansion microscopy. Cortical MTs and the conoid start to develop almost simultaneously, but from distinct precursors near the centrioles. Cortical MTs are initiated in a fixed sequence, starting around the periphery of a short arc that extends to become a complete circle. The conoid also develops from an open arc into a full circle, with a fixed spatial relationship to the centrioles. The patterning of the MT array starts from a \"blueprint\" with ~ 5-fold symmetry, switching to 22-fold rotational symmetry in the final product, revealing a major structural rearrangement during daughter growth. The number of MT is essentially invariant in the wild-type array, but is perturbed by the loss of some structural components of the apical polar ring. This study provides structural insights into the development of tubulin-containing structures that diverge from conventional models, insights that are critical for understanding the evolutionary paths leading to construction and divergence of cytoskeletal frameworks.

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