Immune evasion genes from filarial nematodes
Gregory, William F
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Helminth parasites have large genomes (~108 bp) which are likely to encode a spectrum of products able to block or divert the host immune response. We have employed three parallel approaches to identify the first generation of `immune evasion genes' from parasites such as the filarial nematode Brugia malayi. The first strategy is a conventional route to characterise prominent surface or secreted antigens. In this way we have identified a 15-kDa protein, which is located on the surface of both L3 and adult B. malayi, and secreted by these parasites in vitro, as a member of the cystatin (cysteine protease inhibitor) family. This product, Bm-CPI-2, blocks conventional cysteine proteases such as papain, but also the aspariginyl endopeptidase involved in the Class II antigen processing pathway in human B cells. In parallel, we identified the major T cell-stimulating antigen from the microfilarial stage as a serpin (serine protease inhibitor), Bm-SPN-2. Microfilariae secrete this product which blocks two key proteases of the neutrophil, a key mediator of inØammation and innate immunity. The second route involves a priori hypotheses that helminth parasites encode homologues of mammalian cytokines such as TGF-b which are members of broad, ancient metazoan gene families. We have identified two TGF-b homologues in B. malayi, and shown that one form (Bm-TGH-2) is both secreted by adult parasites in vitro and able to bind to host TGF-b receptors. Likewise, B. malayi expresses homologues of mammalian MIF, which are remarkably similar in both structure and function to the host protein, even though amino acid identity is only 28%. Finally, we deployed a third method of selecting critical genes, using an expression-based criterion to select abundant mRNAs taken from key points in parasite life histories. By this means, we have shown that the major transcript present in mosquito-borne infective larvae, Bm-ALT, is a credible vaccine candidate for use against lymphatic filariasis, while a second abundantly-expressed gene, Bm-VAL-1, is similar to a likely vaccine antigen being developed against hookworm parasites. reserved.