Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite often found in the brain of humans. Research has shown a correlation between prevalence of antibody titers to T. gondii and psychological illness in humans. Recent studies indicate that individuals seropositive for T. gondii antibodies are more likely to develop psychotic disorders including schizophrenia, which is associated with changes in the dopamine neurotransmitter system. Dopamine in the brain may play a role in proliferation, chemoattraction, infection efficiency, or stage conversion of T. gondii. Because tachyzoites are the first developmental stage to reach the brain, the present study was conducted to determine the effects of dopamine on their development in vitro. In human fibroblast host cells, dopamine was added at either 100 nM or 250 nM to cell culture media, and the numbers of tachyzoites produced at 48 hr were determined and compared to vehicle-treated controls. An increase of tachyzoite numbers and increased destruction in cell monolayer were observed at both concentrations of dopamine. Dopamine used at 250 nM caused a significant (P < 0.05) increase in tachyzoites counts compared to controls. Dopamine antagonists (10 μM) did not significantly alter dopamine-stimulated tachyzoite production in human fibroblasts. In primary neonatal rat astrocyte cell cultures, dopamine (200 μM) significantly (P < 0.05) increased numbers of intracellular tachyzoites after 24 hr. The role that this increase plays in tachyzoite production under the stimulus of dopamine in the modulation of neural infection in humans awaits further studies.

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