Stage-specific expression of NcSAG4 as a marker of chronic Neospora caninum infection in a mouse model

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Abstract

SUMMARY

Neospora caninum infection persists throughout the life of its intermediate host due to the conversion of tachyzoites to slowly dividing bradyzoites that encyst in the brain. This event results in persistent N. caninum infection in bovine herds and partially explains the poor efficacy of many chemotherapeutic agents and vaccine formulations. Thus, there is a need for greater understanding of the tachyzoite-to-bradyzoite conversion mechanisms. Here we studied for the first time the transcription kinetics of the N. caninum bradyzoite-specific gene NcSAG4 in brain samples from chronically infected mice by means of real-time RT-PCR. NcSAG4-messenger RNA (mRNA) levels increased significantly during the chronic phase but followed 2 different expression patterns depending on the isolate used for murine inoculation. NcSAG4-mRNA levels in brains from Nc-1-inoculated mice peaked during late chronic infection (on day 64 post-infection, p.i.), whereas those from Nc-Liv-inoculated mice peaked earlier during the chronic infection (on day 32 p.L). This difference could be a reflection of the different abilities of these isolates to replicate and form cysts in parasitized brains. These results are consistent with our observations of anti-rNcSAG4 antibody production; low levels were present at seroconversion and slowly increased during the chronic phase. In contrast, NcSAG1 transcription levels, which mark the tachyzoite stage, were maintained without variation in both groups of mice. This suggests the presence of a significant amount of tachyzoites or intermediate zoites expressing NcSAG1 in the brain, even during the late chronic infection.

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