Latent toxoplasmosis aggravates anxiety- and depressive-like behaviour and suggest a role of gene-environment interactions in the behavioural response to the parasite

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Toxoplasma gondii (TOX) is an intracellular parasite which infects warm-blooded animals including humans. An increasing number of clinical studies now hypothesize that latent toxoplasmosis may be a risk factor for the development of psychiatric disease. For depression, the results have been varied and we speculate that genetic background is important for the response to latent toxoplasmosis. The main objective of this study was to elucidate gene - environment interactions in the behavioural response to TOX infection by use of genetically vulnerable animals (Flinders sensitive line, FSL) compared to control animals (Flinders resistant line, FRL). Our results show that all infected animals displayed increased anxiety-like behaviour whereas only genetically vulnerable animals (FSL rats) showed depressive-like behaviour as a consequence of the TOX infection. Furthermore, peripheral cytokine expression was increased following the infection, primarily independent of strain. In the given study 14 cytokines, chemokines, metabolic hormones, and growth factors were quantified with the bead-based Luminex200 system, however, only IL-1α expression was affected differently in FSL animals compared to FRL rats. These results suggest that latent TOX infection can induce anxiety-like behaviour independent of genetic background. Intriguingly, we also report that for depressive-like behaviour only the vulnerable rat strain is affected. This could explain the discrepancy in the literature as to whether TOX infection is a risk factor for depressive symptomatology. We propose that the low grade inflammation caused by the chronic infection is related to the development of behavioural symptoms.

Original languageEnglish
JournalBehavioural Brain Research
Pages (from-to)133-139
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 2019

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