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Evaluation of immunization with tachyzoite excreted-secreted proteins in a novel susceptible mouse model (A/Sn) for Toxoplasma gondii

Abstract

Toxoplasma gondii is an important food-borne parasite transmitted primarily from animals to humans through meat consumption, mainly pork and lamb, as well as through oocysts shed by cats. Infection in humans can cause severe neonatal malformations, ocular complications or encephalitis. Toxoplasmosis infection during pregnancy, especially in sheep, often results in abortion, representing considerable economic loss. The aim of this study was to investigate whether Toxoplasma gondii pooled excreted-secreted antigens (ESA), recovered from infected culture supernatants with tachyzoites used as immunogen, can protect experimental mice against T. gondii infection. For immunization experiments, we evaluated A/Sn inbred mice, a novel susceptible mouse model for T. gondii and a virulent strain (RH) for challenge experiments. The antigen selection was based on those produced by tachyzoites since they are responsible for disseminating the infection as well as stimulating the humoral and cellular immune responses. ESA were recovered from VERO cell-culture supernatants infected with virulent RH strain tachyzoites harvested after 48 h. Groups of 5 female mice were intraperitoneally (i.p.) immunized with 4 doses at 2 week intervals with 20 microg of ESA adsorbed to 0.5 mg of alum. The control group received only the adjuvant in PBS on the same dates. Pooled serum collected from chronically infected mice was used as positive control. Blood samples were collected from tail veins 14 days after each immunization. Antibody was detected using ELISA, indirect immunofluorescence and immunoblotting. Anti-ESA antibodies were also evaluated by agglutination, complement-mediated lysis and antibody-mediated cellular toxicity. Fifteen days after the last immunization, both groups were challenged (i.p.) with 1 x 10(3) RH strain tachyzoites. The parasitemia was evaluated by PCR, and survival was followed daily. The results showed an increase of antibody levels after each immunization. Anti-ESA antibodies also reacted with a crude tachyzoite antigen and bonded on the parasite surface, with particularly high intensity at the apical region. Anti-ESA antibodies were also able to agglutinate and kill tachyzoites in vitro through interactions with complement and cellular pathways. Even though the tachyzoite challenge was lethal to the mice, PCR results suggested that immunized mice had lower parasitemia as well as longer survival (72 h) than mice from the control group. (AU)

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