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Keywords:

  • Toxoplasma gondii;
  • tight junctions;
  • occludin;
  • invasion

Abstract  Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous parasite found within all mammals and birds worldwide that can cause fatal infections in immunocompromised persons and fetuses. The parasite causes chronic infections by residing in long-living tissues of the muscle and brain. T. gondii infects the host through contaminated meat and water consumption with the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) being the first point of contact with the host. The mechanisms by which the parasite invades the host through the GI tract are unknown, although it has been suggested that the paracellular pathway is important for parasite dissemination. Studies indicate that epithelial tight junction–associated proteins are affected by T. gondii, although which junctional proteins are affected and the nature of host protein–parasite interactions have not been established. We have uncovered evidence that T. gondii influences the cellular distribution of occludin to transmigrate the intestinal epithelium and suggest how candidate binding partners can be identified.