The apicomplexan protozoan Toxoplasma gondii has a striking predilection for infecting the central nervous system and has been suggested as a risk factor for schizophrenia. Here, we address some of the mechanisms by which T. gondii achieves this by manipulating signaling pathways of the host brain cells.
Recent years have brought notable progress in the understanding of how the opportunistic parasite T. gondii establishes a successful infection in mammalian brain by secreting effector molecules that manipulate multiple cell functions. Many pathways involved in this inter-kingdom signaling, such as dopaminergic, GABAergic and kynurenine pathways, also have key roles in the development of schizophrenia. More understanding of T. gondii-brain cell interaction holds the key to unlocking the mystery of T. gondii-mediated schizophrenia pathogenesis.
T. gondii usurps a variety of host signaling pathways to ensure physiological adaptation, evasion of host immune defense systems, and efficient replication. A detailed knowledge of T. gondii signaling molecules involved in this cross-kingdom communication with host brain cells will probably provide novel means of pharmacologically manipulating host cellular pathways to promote efficient elimination of the parasite and may permit the development of new schizophrenia-modifying therapeutics.