Sex-specific changes in gene expression and behavior induced by chronic Toxoplasma infection in mice

J. Xiao, G. Kannan, L. Jones-Brando, C. Brannock, I. N. Krasnova, J. L. Cadet, M. Pletnikov, R. H. Yolken

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


There is growing evidence that Toxoplasma gondii modifies the behavior of its intermediate hosts. We investigated the molecular basis of these infection-induced behavioral changes, followed by five related behavioral tests to assess the extent of biological relevance. Gene expression signatures were generated in the frontal cortex of male and female mice during the latent stage of infection. We found marked sex-dependent expression differences in mice. In female mice, Toxoplasma infection altered the expression of genes involved in the development of the forebrain, neurogenesis, and sensory and motor coordination (i.e. downregulation of fatty acid-binding protein 7 and eyes absent homolog 1, upregulation of semaphorin 7A). In male mice, infection led mainly to modulation of genes associated with olfactory function (i.e. downregulation of a number of olfactory receptors and dopamine receptor D4, upregulation of slit homolog 1). Although infection appears to affect the olfactory function in male mice, it is the female but not male mice that exhibited attraction to cat odor. In contrast, infected male mice showed a deficit in social transmission of food preference. In contrast to males, infected females displayed locomotor hyperactivity in open field. General olfaction and sensorimotor gating were normal in both male and female infection. Our results indicate that the sex of the host plays a major role in determining variable brain and behavior changes following Toxoplasma infection. These observations are consistent with heterogeneity of neuropsychiatric outcomes of the infection in humans.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)39-48
Number of pages10
StatePublished - Mar 29 2012


  • Behavior
  • Gene expression
  • Mice
  • Sex-dependent
  • Toxoplasma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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