Resolving the biology of Toxoplasma gondii infection in the CNS with gene expression analysis

  • 9:30 am (PDT)
Speakers: Emma Wilson, PhD, Professor, Biomedical Sciences, University of California, Riverside

Infection with the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii is lifelong, with cysts formed in neurons of the central nervous system. In the United States, prevalence rates range between 10-30% while in parts of Europe and South America up to 80% of the population are infected. Although the majority of infections are benign, congenital infection or infection of individuals with compromised immune systems can lead to fatal pathology revealing the importance of a continuous inflammatory environment to keep this parasite suppressed. However, the location of this parasite in the brain, the chronicity of infection, and the role of inflammatory mediators has led to speculation as to the changes caused by chronic, yet subclinical, infection in the brain. Correlations exist between Toxoplasma seropositivity and neurological disease including schizophrenia, epilepsy, and neurodegenerative diseases. While our own studies and others have demonstrated significant infection-induced changes in neurotransmitters in the brain, the molecular basis or the downstream consequences for these changes is not understood.

In this webinar, we present comprehensive analysis of Toxoplasma-induced changes in RNA in the infected brain over the course of infection, conducted by NanoString Technologies. The analysis used the nCounter® Neuropathology, Neuroinflammation, and Inflammation gene expression panels on infected and uninfected mice, we obtained information on 1,480 unique RNA targets while simultaneously measuring a set of 30 genes associated with early and late parasite development. This combinatorial approach supports the previously published results of disrupted neurotransmitter regulation, provides detailed kinetics of parasite development in the brain, and points to enhanced neuron repair mechanisms, including a significant increase in myelination. These data pinpoint pathways that are altered during chronic Toxoplasma infection and reveal a potential benefit of having a parasite in your brain.

FOR RESEARCH USE ONLY. Not for use in diagnostic procedures.