Walking with insects: molecular mechanisms behind parasitic manipulation of host behaviour



Parasitic infections are often followed by changes in host behaviour. Numerous and exquisite examples of such behavioural alterations are known, covering a broad spectrum of parasites and hosts. Most descriptions of such parasite-induced changes in host behaviour are observational reports, while experimentally confirmed examples of parasite genes inducing these changes are limited. In this study, we review changes in invertebrate host behaviour observed upon infection by parasites and discuss such changes in an evolutionary context. We then explore possible mechanisms involved in parasite-induced changes in host behaviour. Genes and pathways known to play a role in invertebrate behaviour are reviewed, and we hypothesize how parasites (may) affect these pathways. This review provides the state of the art in this exciting, interdisciplinary field by exploring possible pathways triggered in hosts, suggesting methodologies to unravel the molecular mechanisms that lead to changes in host behaviour.