PLoS Pathog. 19 (5) e1011372 [2023-05-00; online 2023-05-04]
Giardia intestinalis is a non-invasive, protozoan parasite infecting the upper small intestine of most mammals. Symptomatic infections cause the diarrhoeal disease giardiasis in humans and animals, but at least half of the infections are asymptomatic. However, the molecular underpinnings of these different outcomes of the infection are still poorly defined. Here, we studied the early transcriptional response to G. intestinalis trophozoites, the disease-causing life-cycle stage, in human enteroid-derived, 2-dimensional intestinal epithelial cell (IEC) monolayers. Trophozoites preconditioned in media that maximise parasite fitness triggered only neglectable inflammatory transcription in the IECs during the first hours of co-incubation. By sharp contrast, "non-fit" or lysed trophozoites induced a vigorous IEC transcriptional response, including high up-regulation of many inflammatory cytokines and chemokines. Furthermore, "fit" trophozoites could even suppress the stimulatory effect of lysed trophozoites in mixed infections, suggesting active G. intestinalis suppression of the IEC response. By dual-species RNA-sequencing, we defined the IEC and G. intestinalis gene expression programs associated with these differential outcomes of the infection. Taken together, our results inform on how G. intestinalis infection can lead to such highly variable effects on the host, and pinpoints trophozoite fitness as a key determinant of the IEC response to this common parasite.