Expanding the known repertoire of C-type lectin receptors binding to Toxoplasma gondii oocysts using a modified high-resolution immunofluorescence assay
The environmental stage of the apicomplexan Toxoplasma gondii oocyst is vital to its life cycle but largely understudied. Because oocysts are excreted only by infected felids, their availability for research is limited. We report the adaptation of an agarose-based method to immobilize minute amounts of oocysts to perform immunofluorescence assays. Agarose embedding allows high-resolution confocal microscopy imaging of antibodies binding to the oocyst surface as well as unprecedented imaging of intracellular sporocyst structures with Maclura pomifera agglutinin after on-slide permeabilization of the immobilized oocysts. To identify new possible molecules binding to the oocyst surface, we used this method to screen a library of C-type lectin receptor (CLR)-human IgG constant region fusion proteins from the group of related CLRs called the Dectin-1 cluster against oocysts. In addition to CLEC7A that was previously reported to decorate T. gondii oocysts, we present experimental evidence for specific binding of three additional CLRs to the surface of this stage. We discuss how these CLRs, known to be expressed on neutrophils, dendritic cells, or macrophages, could be involved in the early immune response by the host, such as oocyst antigen uptake in the intestine. In conclusion, we present a modified immunofluorescence assay technique that allows material-saving immunofluorescence microscopy with T. gondii oocysts in a higher resolution than previously published, which allowed us to describe three additional CLRs binding specifically to the oocyst surface.IMPORTANCE Knowledge of oocyst biology of Toxoplasma gondii is limited, not the least due to its limited availability. We describe a method that permits us to process minute amounts of oocysts for immunofluorescence microscopy without compromising their structural properties. This method allowed us to visualize internal structures of sporocysts by confocal microscopy in unprecedented quality. Moreover, the method can be used as a low- to medium-throughput method to screen for molecules interacting with oocysts, such as antibodies, or compounds causing structural damage to oocysts (i.e., disinfectants). Using this method, we screened a small library of C-type lectin receptors (CLRs) present on certain immune cells and found three CLRs able to decorate the oocyst wall of T. gondii and which were not known before to bind to oocysts. These tools will allow further study into oocyst wall composition and could also provoke experiments regarding immunological recognition of oocysts.