Differential gamma interferon- and tumor necrosis factor alpha-driven cytokine response distinguishes acute infection of a metatherian host with Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Infection and Immunity, 2017, 85 (6)
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© 2017 American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved. Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum (both Apicomplexa) are closely related cyst-forming coccidian parasites that differ significantly in their host ranges and ability to cause disease. Unlike eutherian mammals, Australian marsupials (metatherian mammals) have long been thought to be highly susceptible to toxoplasmosis and neosporosis because of their historical isolation from the parasites. In this study, the carnivorous fat-tailed dunnart (Sminthopsis crassicaudata) was used as a disease model to investigate the immune response and susceptibility to infection of an Australian marsupial to T. gondii and N. caninum. The disease outcome was more severe in N. caninuminfected dunnarts than in T. gondii-infected dunnarts, as shown by the severity of clinical and histopathological features of disease and higher tissue parasite burdens in the tissues evaluated. Transcriptome sequencing (RNA-seq) of spleens from infected dunnarts and mitogen-stimulated dunnart splenocytes was used to define the cytokine repertoires. Changes in mRNA expression during the time course of infection were measured using quantitative reverse transcription-PCR (qRT-PCR) for key Th1 (gamma interferon [IFN-γ] and tumor necrosis factor alpha [TNF-α]), Th2 (interleukin 4 [IL-4] and IL-6), and Th17 (IL-17A) cytokines. The results show qualitative differences in cytokine responses by the fat-tailed dunnart to infection with N. caninum and T. gondii. Dunnarts infected with T. gondii were capable of mounting a more effective Th1 immune response than those infected with N. caninum, indicating the role of the immune response in the outcome scenarios of parasite infection in this marsupial mammal.
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