Neospora caninum is a protozoan parasite that causes neurological disorders in dogs and cattle. It can cause nonsuppurative meningoencephalitis and a variety of neuronal symptoms are observed, particularly in dogs. However, the pathogenic mechanism, including the relationship between the parasite distribution and the clinical signs, is unclear. In this study, to understand the pathogenic mechanism of neosporosis, parasite distribution and lesions were assessed in the brain of mice infected with N. caninum (strain Nc-1). Host gene expression was also analyzed with RNA sequencing (RNA-Seq). The histopathological lesions in the frontal lobe and the medulla oblongata were significantly more severe in symptomatic mice than in asymptomatic mice, although no association between the severity of the lesions and parasite numbers was found. In infected mice, the expression of 772 mouse brain genes was upregulated. A GOstat analysis predicted that the upregulated genes were involved in the host immune response. Genes whose expression correlated positively and negatively with parasite numbers were involved in the host immune response, and neuronal morphogenesis and lipid metabolic processes, respectively. These results suggest that changes in the gene expression profile associated with neuronal functions as well as immune responses can contribute to the pathogenesis in N. caninum-infected animals.
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