The Toxoplasma genome encodes the capacity for distinct architectures underlying cell cycle progression in a life cycle stage-dependent manner. Replication in intermediate hosts occurs by endodyogeny, whereas a hybrid of schizogony and endopolygeny occurs in the gut of the definitive feline host. Here, we characterize the consequence of the loss of a cell cycle-regulated ovarian tumor (OTU family) deubiquitinase, OTUD3A of Toxoplasma gondii (TgOTUD3A; TGGT1_258780), in T. gondii tachyzoites. Rather than the mutation being detrimental, mutant parasites exhibited a fitness advantage, outcompeting the wild type. This phenotype was due to roughly one-third of TgOTUD3A-knockout (TgOTUD3A-KO) tachyzoites exhibiting deviations from endodyogeny by employing replication strategies that produced 3, 4, or 5 viable progeny within a gravid mother instead of the usual 2. We established the mechanistic basis underlying these altered replication strategies to be a dysregulation of centrosome duplication, causing a transient loss of stoichiometry between the inner and outer cores that resulted in a failure to terminate S phase at the attainment of 2N ploidy and/or the decoupling of mitosis and cytokinesis. The resulting dysregulation manifested as deviations in the normal transitions from S phase to mitosis (S/M) (endopolygeny-like) or M phase to cytokinesis (M/C) (schizogony-like). Notably, these imbalances are corrected prior to cytokinesis, resulting in the generation of normal progeny. Our findings suggest that decisions regarding the utilization of specific cell cycle architectures are controlled by a ubiquitin-mediated mechanism that is dependent on the absolute threshold levels of an as-yet-unknown target(s). Analysis of the TgOTUD3A-KO mutant provides new insights into mechanisms underlying the plasticity of apicomplexan cell cycle architecture.

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Published in mBio, v. 8, issue 6, e01846-17, p. 1-28.

Copyright © 2017 Dhara et al.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.

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This work was supported by Kentucky Science and Engineering Foundation grant number KSEF-2624-RDE-015 and National Institutes of Health grant number NIH R21 AI122894 (both awarded to A.P.S.).

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Supplemental material for this article may be found at https://doi.org/10.1128/mBio.01846-17.