Immunological genomics of Brugia malayi: filarial genes implicated in immune evasion and protective immunity
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Filarial nematodes are metazoan parasites with genome sizes of > 100 million base pairs, probably encoding 15 000-20 000 genes. Within this considerable gene complement, it seems likely that filariae have evolved a spectrum of immune evasion products which underpin their ability to live for many years within the human host. Moreover, no suitable vaccine currently exists for human filarial diseases, and few markers have yet been established for diagnostic use. In this review, we bring together biochemical and immunological data on prominent filarial proteins with the exciting new information provided by the Filarial Genome Project's expressed sequence tag (EST) database. In this discussion, we focus on those genes with the highest immunological profile, such as inhibitors of host enzymes, cytokine homologues and stage-specific surface proteins, as well as products associated with the mosquitoborne infective larva which offer the best opportunity for an anti-filarial vaccine. These gene products provide a fascinating glimpse of the molecular repertoire which helminth parasites have evolved to manipulate and evade the mammalian immune response.