Toxoplasma gondii is a leading cause of foodborne illness and consumption of undercooked pig meat is a major risk factor for acquiring toxoplasmosis, which causes a substantial burden on society. Here, we used isobaric tags for relative and absolute quantification (iTRAQ) labelling coupled with liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) to identify cellular proteins and pathways altered during T. gondii infection in pigs. We also used parallel reaction monitoring-based LC-MS/MS to verify the levels of protein expression of infected spleens and mesenteric lymph nodes (MLNs). At 6 days post-infection (dpi), 156, 391, 170, 292, and 200 differentially expressed proteins (DEPs) were detected in the brain, liver, lung, MLNs and spleen, respectively.
At 18 dpi, 339, 351, 483, 388, and 303 DEPs were detected in the brain, liver, lung, MLNs and spleen, respectively. Although proteins involved in immune responses were upregulated in all infected tissues, protein expression signature in infected livers was dominated by downregulation of the metabolic processes.
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By weighted gene co-expression network analysis, we could further show that all proteins were clustered into 25 co-expression modules and that the pink module significantly correlated with the infection status. We also identified 163 potential anti-T. gondii proteins (PATPs) and provided evidence that two PATPs (HSP70.2 and PDIA3) can reduce T.
gondii burden in porcine macrophages in vitro. This comprehensive proteomics analysis reveals new facets in the pathogenesis of T. gondii infection and identifies key proteins that may contribute to the pig’s defense against this infection.