We examined the effect of maternal Toxoplasma gondii infection on behavior and the neurotransmitter concentrations of congenitally infected CD-1 mice at 4 and 8 wk of age when latent tissue cysts would be present in their brains. Because of sex-associated behavioral changes that develop during aging, infected female mice were compared with control females and infected male mice were compared with control males. Only the short memory behavior (distance between goal box and first hole investigated) of male mice congenitally infected with T. gondii was significantly different (P < 0.05) from that of uninfected control males at both 4 and 8 wk by using the Barnes maze test. The other parameters examined in the latter test, i.e., functional observational battery tests, virtual cliff, visual placement, and activity tests, were not significantly different (P > 0.05) at 4 and 8 wk. Concentrations of neurotransmitters and their metabolites (dopamine; 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid; homovanillic acid; norepinephrine; epinephrine; 3-methoxy-4-hydroxyphenylglycol; serotonin; and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid) in the frontal cortex and striatum were not different (P > 0.05) between infected and control mice at 8 wk of age. The exact mechanism for the observed effect on short-term memory in male mice is not known, and further investigation may help elucidate the molecular mechanisms associated with the proposed link between behavioral changes and T. gondii infection in animals. We were not able, however, to confirm the widely held belief that changes in neurotransmitters result from chronic T. gondii infection of the brain.
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Vol. 98 • No. 4