Host–pathogen interaction in Toxoplasma gondii-infected mixed chicken blood cell cultures
Toxoplasma gondii has the ability to infect various nucleated cell types in different hosts. The aim of the present study was to investigate which chicken blood cells were targeted by T. gondii in a mixed blood cell culture similar to in vivo conditions and to evaluate parasite–host cell interactions. The study consisted of two subsequent experiments. In experiment 1, we applied T. gondii tachyzoites (ME49) at a multiplicity of infection of 1 tachyzoite per blood cell and examined parasite replication, cytokine, and inducible nitric oxide synthase (iNOS) mRNA expression between 1 h and 48 h post-infection (p.i.) by quantitative PCR. By using T. gondii RH-GFP tachyzoites expressing the green fluorescent protein (GFP) in experiment 2, we aimed for visualizing infected cells by confocal laser scanning microscopy (CLSM) and flow cytometric analysis at 24 h p.i. The parasite replication curve showed a massive decrease of parasite stages until 24 h p.i. followed by an approximately plateau phase. We observed mainly significantly increased iNOS mRNA expression levels in T. gondii-infected culture compared to uninfected cells. Flow cytometry and CLSM data confirmed monocytes/macrophages as main target cells for T. gondii. Moreover, different lymphocytes like B cells and cytotoxic T cells seem to be targeted to a low extent. Our findings indicate that monocytes/macrophages play a key role during T. gondii infection in chicken as host cells and triggering of immune response. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of a mixed chicken blood cell culture experimentally infected with T. gondii.