Chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection induces anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor autoantibodies and associated behavioral changes and neuropathology
Li, Y, Viscidi, R. P., Kannan, G., McFarland,R., Pletnikov, M. V., Severance,E. G., Yolken, R. H., Xiao, J. C.
Infection and Immunity 2018; 86: DOI: 10.1128/iai.00398-18
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Anti-NMDA receptor (NMDAR) autoantibodies have been postulated to play a role in the pathogenesis of NMDAR hypofunction, which contributes to the etiology of psychotic symptoms. Toxoplasma gondii is a pathogen implicated in psychiatric disorders and associated with elevation of NMDAR autoantibodies. However, it remains unclear whether parasite infection is the cause of NMDAR autoantibodies. By using mouse models, we found that NMDAR autoantibody generation had a strong temporal association with tissue cyst formation, as determined by MAGI antibody seroreactivity (r = 0.96; P < 0.0001), which is a serologic marker for the cyst burden. The presence of MAGI antibody response, but not T. gondii IgG response, was required for NMDAR autoantibody production. The pathogenic relevance of NMDAR autoantibodies to behavioral abnormalities (blunted response to amphetamine-triggered activity and decreased locomotor activity and exploration) and reduced expression of synaptic proteins (the GLUN2B subtype of NMDAR and PSD-95) has been demonstrated in infected mice. Our study suggests that NMDAR autoantibodies are specifically induced by persistent T. gondii infection and are most likely triggered by tissue cysts. NMDAR autoantibody seroreactivity may be a novel pathological hallmark of chronic toxoplasmosis, which raises questions about NMDAR hypofunction and neurodegeneration in the infected brain.