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The protozoan parasite, Trypanosoma cruzi, causes severe morbidity and mortality in afflicted individuals. Approximately 30% of T. cruzi infected individuals present with cardiac pathology. The invasive forms of the parasite are carried in the vascular system to infect other cells of the body. During transportation, the molecular mechanisms by which the parasite signals and interact with host endothelial cells (EC) especially heart endothelium is currently unknown. The parasite increases host thrombospondin-1 (TSP1) expression and activates the Wnt/β-catenin and hippo signaling pathways during the early phase of infection. The links between TSP1 and activation of the signaling pathways and their impact on parasite infectivity during the early phase of infection remain unknown. To elucidate the significance of TSP1 function in YAP/β-catenin colocalization and how they impact parasite infectivity during the early phase of infection, we challenged mouse heart endothelial cells (MHEC) from wild type (WT) and TSP1 knockout mice with T. cruzi and evaluated Wnt signaling, YAP/β-catenin crosstalk, and how they affect parasite infection. We found that in the absence of TSP1, the parasite induced the expression of Wnt-5a to a maximum at 2 h (1.73±0.13), P< 0.001 and enhanced the level of phosphorylated glycogen synthase kinase 3β at the same time point (2.99±0.24), PT. cruzi infection. Importantly, dysregulation of this crosstalk by pre-incubation of WT MHEC with a β-catenin inhibitor, endo-IWR 1, dramatically reduced the level of infection of WT MHEC. Parasite infectivity of inhibitor treated WT MHEC was similar to the level of infection of TSP1 KO MHEC. These results indicate that the β-catenin pathway induced by the parasite and regulated by TSP1 during the early phase of T. cruzi infection is an important potential therapeutic target, which can be explored for the prophylactic prevention of T. cruzi infection.


This work was originally published in PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, available at

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY 4.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.



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