Indexed on: 21 Nov '07Published on: 21 Nov '07Published in: International Journal for Parasitology
Detection of the initial site of Toxoplasma gondii reactivation in brain tissue is difficult because the number of latent cysts is small and reactivation is a transient event. To detect the early stage of reactivation in mouse brain tissue, we constructed a cyst-forming strain of T. gondii in the tachyzoite stage, specifically expressing red fluorescence. The PLK strain of T. gondii was stably transfected with a red fluorescent protein gene, DsRed Express, under the control of a tachyzoite-specific SAG-1 promoter and the resulting parasite was designated as PLK/RED. Tachyzoites of PLK/RED growing in Vero cells showed red fluorescence. When C57BL/6J mice were i.p. infected with tachyzoites of PLK/RED, red fluorescent tachyzoites were detected in their brains at the fourth day p.i. However, red fluorescent tachyzoites were not detected in BALB/c mice latently infected with PLK/RED, although non-fluorescent cysts were detected in their brains. After treatment of latently infected mice with dexamethasone for 1 month, the mice showed neurological symptoms. In mice with symptoms, red fluorescent tachyzoites were again detected in their brains and in other organs. To detect the initial site of reactivation, BALB/c mice latently infected with the strain were treated with dexamethasone for 3 weeks, and brains were excised before any symptoms appeared. Excised brains were examined for red fluorescence-positive sites. By a histological study of red fluorescent-positive sites, we detected a cyst containing red fluorescent zoites, which still had a PAS stain-positive cyst wall. A few red fluorescent zoites breaking away from the cyst were also observed. The stage-specific expression of fluorescent protein facilitates detection of a rare transient event and makes it possible to detect the initial site of reactivation.