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Illuminating host-parasite interaction at the cellular and subcellular levels with infrared microspectroscopy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Hany M. Elsheikha, Alaa Al-Sandaqchi, Mohammad Harun, Francesca Winterton, Ali Altharawi, Nashwa A. Elsaied, Carl Stevenson, University Nottingham, John Mina, Gianfelice Cinque, Andrew Chan

Original languageEnglish
Article number811
Issue number5
Published1 Feb 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: Funding: A.T.A.-S. was supported by a Ph.D. studentship from the Ministry of Higher Education of the Iraqi government. F.D. was supported by a Wellcome Trust CVRT Vacation Award. N.A.E. was supported by University of Nottingham Vice-Chancellor Scholarship for international students. The study was partly supported by a BBSRC grant BB/M024156/1 to P.W.D. Publisher Copyright: © 2022 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


King's Authors


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.

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