Review Article

Cellular and immunological basis of the host-parasite relationship during infection with Neospora caninum

a1 Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Berne, Länggass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Berne, Switzerland

Article author query
hemphill a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
vonlaufen n   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
naguleswaran a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Neospora caninum is an apicomplexan parasite that is closely related to Toxoplasma gondii, the causative agent of toxoplasmosis in humans and domestic animals. However, in contrast to T. gondii, N. caninum represents a major cause of abortion in cattle, pointing towards distinct differences in the biology of these two species. There are 3 distinct key features that represent potential targets for prevention of infection or intervention against disease caused by N. caninum. Firstly, tachyzoites are capable of infecting a large variety of host cells in vitro and in vivo. Secondly, the parasite exploits its ability to respond to alterations in living conditions by converting into another stage (tachyzoite-to-bradyzoite or vice versa). Thirdly, by analogy with T. gondii, this parasite has evolved mechanisms that modulate its host cells according to its own requirements, and these must, especially in the case of the bradyzoite stage, involve mechanisms that ensure long-term survival of not only the parasite but also of the host cell. In order to elucidate the molecular and cellular bases of these important features of N. caninum, cell culture-based approaches and laboratory animal models are being exploited. In this review, we will summarize the current achievements related to host cell and parasite cell biology, and will discuss potential applications for prevention of infection and/or disease by reviewing corresponding work performed in murine laboratory infection models and in cattle.

(Received January 6 2006)
(Revised April 4 2006)
(Accepted April 8 2006)
(Published Online June 6 2006)

Key Words: Neospora caninum; host cell invasion; cell surface receptors; host cell modulation; stage conversion; murine model; vaccination.

c1 Tel: +41 31 6312384. Fax: +41 31 6312477. E-mail: