Grand Award

First Place

Sponsored Awards

Mayer Family Excellence in Science Award

Investigating the role of apoptosis as a mechanism of cellular death in Central Nervous System (CNS) Toxoplasmosis

Cellular and Molecular Biology and Biochemistry
Diya Bhattacharya

Becky Grant

Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate, intracellular parasite known to have prevalent persistence in the central nervous system (CNS), specifically the brain. As a result of infection, neuron death occurs; however, the mechanism of cellular death remains unclear. My research focuses on investigating the cause of cell death in Toxoplasma Injected Neurons (TINs). Using a Caspase-3 Knockout (C3KO) mouse model and wild-type (WT) mice, I aimed to determine if apoptosis, the most common pathway of programmed cell death in neurons, affects CNS toxoplasmosis. Through immunofluorescence staining of brain sections, I compared the presence of TINs and cysts between two cohorts of mice inoculated with two different T. gondii strains called II-Cre and III-Cre. Additionally, for both cohorts, I isolated DNA from the brains and performed quantitative PCR for the B1 gene, a T. gondii-specific gene that is not expressed but is found in all T. gondii strains. This allowed for the amount of parasite genomes present in the brain to be quantified. Using these methods, compared to WT infected mice, I found a higher number of cysts, parasite burden, and TINs in the C3KO brains infected with III-Cre and increased encystment and parasite burden in the C3KO brains infected with II-Cre. These results suggest that apoptosis plays a role in affecting central nervous system toxoplasmosis. These findings also provide insight on how T. gondii persists in the brain and has implications for treating asymptomatic conditions and preventing neurological diseases associated with this parasite.

Project presentation

View Project Presentation file

Lab journal excerpts

View Lab Journal file

Research paper

View Research Paper file