PLoS One. 2014 Jun 18;9(6):e96770. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0096770. eCollection 2014.
Toxoplasma gondii Decreases the Reproductive Fitness in Mice
Dvorakova-Hortova K1, Sidlova A1, Ded L2, Hladovcova D1, Vieweg M3, Weidner W3, Steger K3, Stopka P1, Paradowska-Dogan A3.
Toxoplasma gondii is a common protozoan parasite that infects warm-blooded animals throughout the world, including mice and humans. During infection, both, the parasite and the host, utilize various mechanisms to maximize their own reproductive success. Mice and humans are both the intermediate hosts for Toxoplasma gondii, which forms specialized vacuoles containing reproductive cysts in the formers' tissue. As half of the human population is infected, developing a disease called toxoplasmosis, along with an ever-growing number of couples suffering with idiopathic infertility, it is therefore surprising that there is a lack of research on how Toxoplasma gondii can alter reproductive parameters. In this study, a detailed histometric screening of the testicular function along with the levels of the pituitary luteinizing hormone (LH) were analysed in infected mice. Data on relative testis and epididymis weight, and sperm count were also collected. Based on the results obtained, the level of LH in the urine of Toxoplasma gondii infected mice was lower compared to the control. In direct correlation with the hormone level, testicular function and sperm production was also significantly lower in Toxoplasma gondii positive group using sperm count and histometric analysis as a marker. Not only were the number of leptotene primary spermatocytes and spermatids lowered, but the number of Sertoli cells and the tubule diameter were elevated. In parallel, a pilot epigenetic study on global testicular methylation, and specific methylation of Crem, Creb1 and Hspa1genes essential for successfully ongoing spermatogenesis was performed. Global methylation was elevated in Toxoplasma infected mice, and differences in the DNA methylation of selected genes were detected between the Toxoplasma positive and control group. These findings demonstrate a direct relation between Toxoplasma gondii infection and the decrease of male reproductive fitness in mice, which may contribute to an increase of idiopathic infertility in humans.
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