The requirements for growth and survival of the intracellular pathogen Trypanosoma cruzi within mammalian host cells are poorly understood. Transcriptional profiling of the host cell response to infection serves as a rapid read-out for perturbation of host physiology that, in part, reflects adaptation to the infective process. Using Affymetrix oligonucleotide array analysis we identified common and disparate host cell responses triggered by T. cruzi infection of phenotypically diverse human cell types.
We report significant changes in transcript abundance in T. cruzi-infected fibroblasts, endothelial cells and smooth muscle cells (2852, 2155 and 531 genes respectively; fold-change ≥ 2, p-value < 0.01) 24 hours post-invasion. A prominent type I interferon response was observed in each cell type, reflecting a secondary response to secreted cytokine in infected cultures. To identify a core cytokine-independent response in T. cruzi-infected fibroblasts and endothelial cells transwell plates were used to distinguish cytokine-dependent and -independent gene expression profiles. This approach revealed the induction of metabolic and signaling pathways involved in cell proliferation, amino acid catabolism and response to wounding as common themes in T. cruzi-infected cells. In addition, the downregulation of genes involved in mitotic cell cycle and cell division predicted that T. cruzi infection may impede host cell cycle progression. The observation of impaired cytokinesis in T. cruzi-infected cells, following nuclear replication, confirmed this prediction.
Metabolic pathways and cellular processes were identified as significantly altered at the transcriptional level in response to T. cruzi infection in a cytokine-independent manner. Several of these alterations are supported by previous studies of T. cruzi metabolic requirements or effects on the host. However, our methods also revealed a T. cruzi-dependent block in the host cell cycle, at the level of cytokinesis, previously unrecognized for this pathogen-host cell interaction.