Team: Plasmodium and Toxoplasma: membrane biogenesis and host cell – parasite interactions

Host cell invasion and intracellular survival in apicomplexan parasites

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Principal investigator: Maryse LEBRUN
Research Director INSERM


L'équipe "Toxoplasma" a reçu le label "FRM Team"

Le projet Vaccination AntiPalustre est confinancé par l'Union européenne
L’Europe s'engage en Languedoc Roussillon avec le fond européen de développement régional



Our research is dedicated to cell biology of Toxoplasma gondii. We aim at deciphering the molecular mechanisms of invasion in T. gondii that has been conserved across the phylum during evolution. Our activities are also focused on autophagy and on vesicular trafficking to the apicoplast, a plastid acquired by secondary endosymbisosis of a red algae that harbors numerous essential metabolic functions.




AQUILINI Eleonora POST DOC eleonora.aquilini arobase

BESTEIRO Sebastien


sebastien.besteiro arobase



marjorie.bienvenu arobase

DAHER Wassim


wassim.daher arobase

DUBREMETZ Jean-François


dubremet arobase

HECKENDORN justine PhD student  justine.heckendorn arobase


Assistant Professor UM2

mauld.lamarque02 arobase



maryse.lebrun arobase

MILIU Alexandra

PhD student

alexandra.miliu arobase



jmorlon arobase



diana.penarete-vargas arobase

RUIVO Margarida

PhD student

margarita.ruivo arobase


PhD student

ksenia.semenovkaya arobase

SUAREZ Catherine


catherine.suarez arobase


Equipe Maryse Lebrun 800

The phylum Apicomplexa comprises parasites responsible for human and animal diseases (such as Plasmodium, Babesia, Eimeria and Toxoplasma). Most of these are obligate intracellular parasites that must penetrate a host cell in order to grow and multiply. They have elaborated a unique and active mode of host-cell entry, involving a substrate-dependent motility named “gliding motility”. The parasite actively builds a new compartment in the host cell by using and modifying the host cell membrane to create the parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM). Once inside the host cell, the parasites replicate, leading to the ultimate lysis of the host cell which is causing the symptoms of the disease. Molecules and processes involved in the invasion and intra-host survival therefore represent potential targets for therapeutic strategies.

Toxoplasma gondii serves as a model for related parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa. Many questions that have been difficult to address in Plasmodium are more tractable in Toxoplasma - T. gondii parasites can be grown to large amounts and thus allows biochemical approaches (including the identification and characterization of subcellular organelles). In addition, sophisticated and rapid molecular genetic techniques have also been developed, allowing functional genomic studies.

We are focusing on projects that combine novel trends in basic research and the development of therapeutic approaches. One of the main objectives is to understand how the parasite actively builds and enters a new membrane bound compartment in the host cell. This project essentially focuses on defining the function of micronemes and rhoptries, two secretory organelles that secrete their contents sequentially during the invasion process and involved in this process. Recent achievements toward this goal are the characterization of a protein complex derived from both organelles that contributes to building the moving junction, a unique structure powered by the parasite to propel itself into the host cell. The laboratory has also achieved pioneering work on the traffic of nuclear encoded proteins to the apicoplast an organelle that houses numerous essential cellular functions and that is therefore an attractive target for therapeutic intervention. We are also currently conducting in T. gondii a pioneering project on autophagy, which is a life-sustaining process conserved among eukaryotes and that has an important role in the survival and development of the parasites.

(all with a link to new pages)
Host cell invasion by apicomplexan parasites
Principal investigator : Maryse LEBRUN

Understanding phosphoinositide functions in vesicular trafficking in Toxoplasma
Principal investigator: Maryse LEBRUN

Roles for autophagy in Toxoplasma
Principal investigator: Sébastien BESTEIRO