We have used drugs to examine the role(s) of the actin and microtubule cytoskeletons in the intracellular growth and replication of the intracellular protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. By using a 5 minute infection period and adding the drugs shortly after entry we can treat parasites at the start of intracellular development and 6–8 hours prior to the onset of daughter cell budding. Using this approach we found, somewhat surprisingly, that reagents that perturb the actin cytoskeleton in different ways (cytochalasin D, latrunculin A and jasplakinolide) had little effect on parasite replication although they had the expected effects on the host cells. These actin inhibitors did, however, disrupt the orderly turnover of the mother cell organelles leading to the formation of a large residual body at the posterior end of each pair of budding parasites. Treating established parasite cultures with the actin inhibitors blocked ionophore-induced egression of tachyzoites from the host cells, demonstrating that intracellular parasites were susceptible to the effects of these inhibitors. In contrast, the anti-microtubule drugs oryzalin and taxol, and to a much lesser extent nocodazole, which affect microtubule dynamics in different ways, blocked parasite replication by disrupting the normal assembly of the apical conoid and the microtubule inner membrane complex (IMC) in the budding daughter parasites. Centrosome replication and assembly of intranuclear spindles, however, occurred normally. Thus, daughter cell budding per se is dependent primarily on the parasite microtubule system and does not require a dynamic actin cytoskeleton, although disruption of actin dynamics causes problems in the turnover of parasite organelles.

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