Morpholino-mediated in vivo silencing of Cryptosporidium parvum lactate dehydrogenase decreases oocyst shedding and infectivity

Xuejin Zhang, Chi Yong Kim, Tori Worthen, William H. Witola

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Cryptosporidium is a highly prevalent protozoan parasite that is the second leading cause of childhood morbidity and mortality due to diarrhoea in developing countries, and causes a serious diarrheal syndrome in calves, lambs and goat kids worldwide. Development of fully effective drugs against Cryptosporidium has mainly been hindered by the lack of genetic tools for functional characterization and validation of potential molecular drug targets in the parasite. Herein, we report the development of a morpholino-based in vivo approach for Cryptosporidium parvum gene knockdown to facilitate determination of the physiological roles of the parasite's genes in a murine model. We show that, when administered intraperitoneally at non-toxic doses, morpholinos targeting C. parvum lactate dehydrogenase (CpLDH) and sporozoite 60K protein (Cp15/60) were able to specifically and sustainably down-regulate the expression of CpLDH and Cp15/60 proteins, respectively, in C. parvum-infected interferon-γ knockout mice. Over a period of 6 days of daily administration of target morpholinos, CpLDH and Cp15/60 proteins were down-regulated by 20- to 50-fold, and 10- to 20-fold, respectively. Knockdown of CpLDH resulted in approximately 80% reduction in oocyst load in the feces of mice, and approximately 70% decrease in infectivity of the sporozoites excysted from the shed oocysts. Cp15/60 knockdown did not affect oocyst shedding nor infectivity but, nevertheless, provided a proof-of-principle for the resilience of the morpholino-mediated C. parvum gene knockdown system in vivo. Together, our findings provide a genetic tool for deciphering the physiological roles of C. parvum genes in vivo, and validate CpLDH as an essential gene for the growth and viability of C. parvum in vivo.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)649-656
Number of pages8
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Jul 2018


  • Cryptosporidium parvum
  • In vivo morpholino-based gene knockdown
  • Lactate dehydrogenase
  • Mouse infection

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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