The family of variable surface lipoproteins (Vsps) of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis includes some of the most immunogenic antigens of this microorganism. Vsps were shown to undergo high-frequency phase and size variations and to possess extensive reiterated coding sequences extending from the N-terminal end to the C-terminal end of the Vsp molecule. In the present study, mapping experiments were conducted to detect regions with immunogenicity and/or adhesion sites in repetitive domains of four Vsp antigens of M. bovis, VspA, VspB, VspE, and VspF. In enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay experiments, sera obtained from naturally infected cattle showed antibodies to different repeating peptide units of the Vsps, particularly to units RA1, RA2, RA4.1, RB2.1, RE1, and RF1, all of which were found to contain immunodominant epitopes of three to seven amino acids. Competitive adherence trials revealed that a number of oligopeptides derived from various repeating units of VspA, VspB, VspE, and VspF partially inhibited cytoadhesion of M. bovis PG45 to embryonic bovine lung cells. Consequently, putative adherence sites were identified in the same repeating units (RA1, RA2, RA4.1, RB2.1, RE1, and RF1) and in RF2. The positions and lengths of the antigenic determinants were mostly identical to those of adhesion-mediating sites in all short repeating units, whereas in the considerably longer RF1 unit (84 amino acid residues), there was only one case of identity among four immunogenic epitopes and six adherence sites. The identification of epitopes and adhesive structures in repetitive domains of Vsp molecules is consistent with the highly immunogenic nature observed for several members of the Vsp family and suggests a possible function for these Vsp molecules as complex adherence-mediating regions in pathogenesis.
A set of strain- and size-variant highly immunogenic membrane surface protein antigens of Mycoplasma bovis, which has been identified by a monoclonal antibody, is shown in this report to make up a family of antigenically and structurally related lipid-modified proteins, designated Vsps (variable surface proteins). By systematic analysis of several isogenic clonal lineages of the type strain PG45, three members of this family have been identified, VspA, VspB, and VspC, each of which was shown to undergo independent high-frequency changes in size as well as noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states. The monoclonal antibody-defined epitope common to VspA, VspB, and VspC was accessible on the cell surface in most, but not all, of the clonal populations analyzed and was present on a C-terminal limit tryptic fragment of each Vsp variant that was released from the membrane surface. VspA and VspC were distinguished from VspB by their selective detection with colloidal gold and by their distinctive reaction with a polyclonal antibody against M. bovis D490. VspA, VspB, and VspC were further distinguishable from one another by their characteristic patterns of degradation at carboxypeptidase Y pause sites. While these Vsp-specific structural fingerprints with an irregular periodic spacing were constant for similarly sized variants of a defined Vsp product, they showed distinct differences among variants differing in size. This variability included gain or loss of individual bands within distinct subsets of bands, as well as shifts of the entire banding patterns up- or downwards, indicating that insertions or deletions underlying Vsp size variation can occur at various locations either within the C-terminal domain or within other regions of these proteins. This was similarly confirmed by comparative epitope mapping analysis of tryptic cleavage products generated from different Vsp size variants. The Vsp family of M. bovis described in this study represents a newly discovered system of surface antigenic variation in mycoplasmas displaying features which closely resemble but are also different from the characteristics reported for the Vlp (variable lipoprotein) system of M. hyorhinis. The isogenic lineages established here provide key populations for subsequent analysis of corresponding genes to further elucidate Vsp structure and variation, which may have important relevance for a better understanding of the pathogenicity of this agent.
Mycoplasma bovis, the most important etiological agent of bovine mycoplasmosis, undergoes extensive antigenic variation of major and highly immunogenic surface lipoprotein antigens (Vsps). A family of 13 related but divergent vsp genes, which occur as single chromosomal copies, was recently found in the chromosome of M. bovis. In the present study, the molecular mechanism mediating the high-frequency phase variation of two Vsps (VspA and VspC) as representatives of the Vsp family was investigated. Analysis of clonal isolates exhibiting phase transitions of VspA or of VspC (i.e., ON→OFF→ON) has shown that DNA inversions occur during Vsp phase variation. The upstream region of each vsp gene contains two sequence cassettes. The first (cassette no. 1), a 71-bp region upstream of the ATG initiation codon, exhibits 98% homology among all vsp genes, while the second (cassette no. 2), upstream of cassette no. 1, ranges in size from 50 to 180 bp and is more divergent. Examination of the ends of the inverted fragments during VspA or VspC phase variation revealed that in both cases, a change in the organization of vsp upstream cassettes involving three vsp genes had occurred. Primer extension and Northern blot analysis have shown that a specific cassette no. 2, designated A2, is an active promoter and that juxtaposition of this regulatory element to a silent vsp gene by DNA inversions allows transcription initiation of the recipient gene. Further genetic analysis revealed that phase variation of VspA or of VspC involves two site-specific DNA inversions occurring between inverted copies of a specific 35-bp sequence present within the conserved cassette no. 1. A model for the control of Vsp phase variation is proposed.
A family of 13 related but divergent vsp genes was recently found in the chromosome of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. The vsp genomic locus was shown to undergo high-frequency rearrangements and to mediate phenotypic switching of variable lipoprotein antigens (Vsps) on the mycoplasma cell surface. Here we report that the vsp gene repertoire is subject to changes. Genetic analysis of M. bovis clonal isolates displaying distinct Vsp phenotypes showed that an intergenic recombination event between two closely related members of the vsp gene family, the formerly expressed vspA gene and the vspO gene, led to the formation of a new chimeric and functional vsp gene, vspC. The 5′ end of the recombination event was identified within the highly conserved vsp-upstream region, while the 3′ end was localized within the first repetitive domain (RA1) present in both vspA and vspO structural genes. As a result, the vspC gene is an embodiment of the following domains: an N-terminus-encoding region linked to the highly conserved vsp-upstream region provided by the vspO gene; and a C-terminus-encoding region and the more distal and divergent vsp-upstream region acquired from the vspA gene. The generation of chimeric genes encoding surface antigens may provide an important element of genetic variation and an additional source of antigenic diversification within the mycoplasma population.
Serotypes A and B of the relapsing fever spirochete Borrelia turicatae produce different disease manifestations in infected mice. Whereas serotype B causes more severe arthritis and reaches higher densities in the blood of mice than serotype A, serotype A invades the central nervous system earlier than serotype B during infection. These differences between serotypes A and B in mice are associated with the expression of different surface proteins, VspA and VspB, respectively, in the culture medium. To determine whether these proteins, in particular, VspB, are also expressed in vivo, scid mice infected with B. turicatae were studied. The expression of VspB by spirochetes in the blood was demonstrated in Coomassie blue-stained polyacrylamide gels and Western blots with a specific monoclonal antibody. Indirect immunofluorescence and immunoperoxidase studies confirmed the expression of VspB in the blood and also demonstrated VspB expression in the joints and heart. The gene for VspB was next identified and cloned by using partial amino acid sequencing, reverse transcriptase PCR, and a specific monoclonal antibody. The vspB gene encodes a protein of 216 amino acids that is 68% identical to VspA of B. turicatae and 44 to 56% identical to representative Vsp and OspC lipoproteins of other Borrelia spp. The processed VspB protein was distinguished from 26 other Vsp and OspC proteins by a high predicted isoelectric point at 9.39. The promoter region for vspB was similar to the promoter region for the vsp33 gene of Borrelia hermsii and for the ospC gene of Borrelia burgdorferi, two genes known to be environmentally regulated. These studies established that the virulence-associated VspB protein is expressed by spirochetes in the mouse and that VspB is a novel member of the Vsp-OspC family of proteins.
Mycoplasma bovis, an important pathogen of cattle, was recently shown to possess a family of phase- and size-variable membrane surface lipoprotein antigens (Vsps). These proteins spontaneously undergo noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states, generating surface antigenic variation. In the present study, we show that the spontaneously high rate of Vsp phenotypic switching involves DNA rearrangements that occur at high frequency in the M. bovis chromosome. A 1.5-kb HindIII genomic fragment carrying the vspA gene from M. bovis PG45 was cloned and sequenced. The deduced VspA amino acid sequence revealed that 80% of the VspA molecule is composed of reiterated intragenic coding sequences, creating a periodic polypeptide structure. Four distinct internal regions of repetitive sequences in the form of in-tandem blocks extending from the N-terminal to the C-terminal portion of the Vsp product were identified. Southern blot analysis of phenotypically switched isogenic lineages representing ON or OFF phase states of Vsp products suggested that changes in the Vsp expression profile were associated with detectable changes at the DNA level. By using a synthetic oligonucleotide representing a sequence complementary to the repetitive vspA gene region as a probe, we could identify the vspA-bearing restriction fragment undergoing high-frequency reversible rearrangements during oscillating phase transition of vspA. The 1.5-kb HindIII fragment carrying the vspA gene (on state) rearranged and produced a 2.3-kb HindIII fragment (OFF state) and vice versa. Two newly discovered vsp genes (vspE and vspF) were localized on two HindIII fragments flanking the vsp gene upstream and downstream. Southern blot hybridization with vspE- and vspF-specific oligonucleotides as probes against genomic DNA of VspA phase variants showed that the organization and size of the fragments adjacent to the vspA gene remained unchanged during VspA ON-OFF switching. The mechanisms regulating the vsp genes are yet unknown; our findings suggest that a recombinative mechanism possibly involving DNA inversions, DNA insertion, or mobile genetic elements may play a role in generating the observed high-frequency DNA rearrangements.
Mycoplasma bovis is an important veterinary pathogen causing pneumonia, arthritis, and mastitis in infected cattle. We investigated the genetic diversity of 53 isolates collected in the United Kingdom between 1996 and 2002 with pulsed-field gel electrophoresis (PFGE), amplified fragment length polymorphism (AFLP), and random amplified polymorphic DNA (RAPD) analysis. In addition, the influence of variable surface protein (Vsp) profiles on the profiles generated with molecular typing techniques was studied. Both AFLP and RAPD separated the isolates into two distinct groups, but PFGE showed less congruence with the other techniques. There was no clear relationship between the geographic origin or year of isolation of the isolates and the profiles produced. No correlation between Vsp profiles and any of the molecular typing techniques was observed. We propose that RAPD and AFLP provide valuable tools for molecular typing of M. bovis.
Mycoplasma bovis is associated with pneumonia in calves characterized by the development of chronic caseonecrotic lesions with the agent persisting within the lesion. The purposes of this study were to characterize the morphology of lung lesions, examine the presence of M. bovis variable surface protein (Vsp) antigens and study the local immune responses in calves after infection with M. bovis strain 1067.
Lung tissue samples from eight calves euthanased three weeks after experimental infection with M. bovis were examined by bacteriology and pathology. Lung lesions were evaluated by immunohistochemical (IHC) staining for wide spectrum cytokeratin and for M. bovis Vsp antigens and pMB67 antigen. IHC identification and quantitative evaluation of CD4+ and CD8+ T lymphocytes and immunoglobulin (IgG1, IgG2, IgM, IgA)-containing plasma cells was performed. Additionally, expression of major histocompatibility complex class II (MHC class II) was studied by IHC.
Suppurative pneumonic lesions were found in all calves. In two calves with caseonecrotic pneumonia, necrotic foci were surrounded by epithelial cells resembling bronchial or bronchiolar epithelium. In all calves, M. bovis Vsp antigens were constantly present in the cytoplasm of macrophages and were also present extracellularly at the periphery of necrotic foci. There was a considerable increase in numbers of IgG1- and IgG2-positive plasma cells among which IgG1-containing plasma cells clearly predominated. Statistical evaluation of the numbers of CD4+ and CD8+ T cells, however, did not reveal statistically significant differences between inoculated and control calves. In M. bovis infected calves, hyperplasia of bronchus-associated lymphoid tissue (BALT) was characterized by strong MHC class II expression of lymphoid cells, but only few of the macrophages demarcating the caseonecrotic foci were positive for MHC class II.
The results from this study show that infection of calves with M. bovis results in various lung lesions including caseonecrotic pneumonia originating from bronchioli and bronchi. There is long-term persistence of M. bovis as demonstrated by bacteriology and immunohistochemistry for M. bovis antigens, i.e. Vsp antigens and pMB67. The persistence of the pathogen and its ability to evade the specific immune response may in part result from local downregulation of antigen presenting mechanisms and an ineffective humoral immune response with prevalence of IgG1 antibodies that, compared to IgG2 antibodies, are poor opsonins.
Cattle, Mycoplasma bovis; pneumonia; immunoglobulins; CD4+ T cells; CD8+ cells; MHC class II
Major lipoprotein antigens, known as variable membrane surface lipoproteins (Vsps), on the surface of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis were shown to spontaneously undergo noncoordinate phase variation between ON and OFF expression states. The high rate of Vsp phenotypic switching was also shown to be linked with DNA rearrangements that occur at high frequency in the M. bovis chromosome (I. Lysnyansky, R. Rosengarten, and D. Yogev, J. Bacteriol. 178:5395–5401, 1996). In the present study, 13 single-copy vsp genes organized in a chromosomal cluster were identified and characterized. All vsp genes encode highly conserved N-terminal domains for membrane insertion and lipoprotein processing but divergent mature Vsp proteins. About 80% of each vsp coding region is composed of reiterated coding sequences that create a periodic polypeptide structure. Eighteen distinct repetitive domains of different lengths and amino acid sequences are distributed within the products of the various vsp genes that are subject to size variation due to spontaneous insertions or deletions of these periodic units. Some of these repeats were found to be present in only one Vsp family member, whereas other repeats recurred at variable locations in several Vsps. Each vsp gene is also 5′ linked to a highly homologous upstream region composed of two internal cassettes. The findings that rearrangement events are associated with Vsp phenotypic switching and that multiple regions of high sequence similarity are present upstream of the vsp genes and within the vsp coding regions suggest that modulation of the Vsp antigenic repertoire is determined by recombination processes that occur at a high frequency within the vsp locus of M. bovis.
Vsp surface lipoproteins are serotype-defining antigens of relapsing fever spirochetes that undergo multiphasic antigenic variation to allow bacterial persistence in spite of an immune response. Two isogenic serotypes of Borrelia turicatae strain Oz1 differ in their Vsp sequences and in disease manifestations in infected mice: Vsp1 is associated with the selection of a neurological niche, while Vsp2 is associated with blood and skin infection. We report here crystal structures of the Vsp1 dimer at 2.7 and 2.2 Å. The structures confirm that relapsing fever Vsp proteins share a common helical fold with OspCs of Lyme disease-causing Borrelia. The fold features an inner stem formed by highly conserved N and C termini and an outer “dome” formed by the variable central residues. Both Vsp1 and OspC structures possess small water-filled cavities, or pockets, that are lined largely by variable residues and are thus highly variable in shape. These features appear to signify tolerance of the Vsp-OspC fold for imperfect packing of residues at its antigenic surface. Structural comparison of Vsp1 with a homology model for Vsp2 suggests that observed differences in disease manifestation may arise in part from distinct differences in electrostatic surface properties; additional predicted positively charged surface patches on Vsp2 compared to Vsp1 may be sufficient to explain the relative propensity of Vsp2 to bind to acidic glycosaminoglycans.
Giardia lamblia, a protozoan parasite of the small intestine of humans and other animals, undergoes surface antigenic variation. The antigens involved belong to a family of variant-specific surface proteins (VSPs), which are unique, cysteine-rich zinc finger proteins. The patterns of infection in humans and animals fail to show the expected cyclical waves of increasing and decreasing numbers of parasites expressing unique VSPs. Nevertheless, changes in VSP expression occur within the population in vivo owing to selection of VSPs by both immune and non-immune mechanisms. After inoculation of a single G. lamblia clone (able to persist in the absence of immune pressure) expressing one VSP (> or = 90%) into mice or humans, the original VSP continues to be expressed until 2 weeks post inoculation (p.i.), when many other VSPs gradually replace it. Selection by immune-mediated processes is suggested because switching occurs at the same time that humoral responses are first detected. In most mouse strains, switching also occurs at about two weeks. Almost all trophozoites are eliminated at three weeks (p.i.), but a barely detectable infection persists over months. In neonatal mice, apparent self-cure is delayed until the sixth or seventh week. Antigenic switching does not occur in adult or neonatal severe combined immunodeficiency disease (SCID) mice, but does occur in neonatal nude mice, thus implicating B-cell-mediated mechanisms in immune switching. Not all VSPs are expressed to the same degree in vivo. Some VSPs appear to be preferentially selected whereas others are eliminated on a non-immune basis. In infections in which immunity does not play a role, such as in SCID mice, and during the first week of infection in immunocompetent mice or gerbils, persisting VSPs are preferentially expressed and maintained whereas non-persisting VSPs are replaced within the first week of infection. The purpose of antigenic variation may be presentation of a wide assortment of VSPs to hosts, increasing the chance of a successful initial infection or reinfection. Immune selection of variants comes into play following biological selection.
Mycoplasma bovis pneumonia in cattle has been epidemic in China since 2008. To investigate M. bovis pathogenesis, we completed genome sequencing of strain HB0801 isolated from a lesioned bovine lung from Hubei, China. The genomic plasticity was determined by comparing HB0801 with M. bovis strain ATCC® 25523™/PG45 from cow mastitis milk, Chinese strain Hubei-1 from lesioned lung tissue, and 16 other Mycoplasmas species. Compared to PG45, the genome size of HB0801 was reduced by 11.7 kb. Furthermore, a large chromosome inversion (580 kb) was confirmed in all Chinese isolates including HB0801, HB1007, a strain from cow mastitis milk, and Hubei-1. In addition, the variable surface lipoproteins (vsp) gene cluster existed in HB0801, but contained less than half of the genes, and had poor identity to that in PG45, but they had conserved structures. Further inter-strain comparisons revealed other mechanisms of gene acquisition and loss in HB0801 that primarily involved insertion sequence (IS) elements, integrative conjugative element, restriction and modification systems, and some lipoproteins and transmembrane proteins. Subsequently, PG45 and HB0801 virulence in cattle was compared. Results indicated that both strains were pathogenic to cattle. The scores of gross pathological assessment for the control group, and the PG45- and HB0801-infected groups were 3, 13 and 9, respectively. Meanwhile the scores of lung lesion for these three groups were 36, 70, and 69, respectively. In addition, immunohistochemistry detection demonstrated that both strains were similarly distributed in lungs and lymph nodes. Although PG45 showed slightly higher virulence in calves than HB0801, there was no statistical difference between the strains (P>0.05). Compared to Hubei-1, a total of 122 SNP loci were disclosed in HB0801. In conclusion, although genomic plasticity was thought to be an evolutionary advantage, it did not apparently affect virulence of M. bovis strains in cattle.
Giardiasis and cryptosporidiosis are common enteric parasitic diseases that have similar routes of transmission. In this work, we have identified epitopes within the Giardia variant-specific surface protein (VSP) sequences that are recognized by IgG antibodies from 13 of 14 (93%) sera from patients with stool-confirmed giardiasis. The conserved epitopes are shared among VSPs from both of the assemblages that commonly infect humans, and they are likely to be structural, as both sodium dodecyl sulfate treatment and dithiothreitol reduction decrease antibody recognition. In a multiplex bead assay (MBA), we used three VSP fragments from an assemblage A Giardia strain, three VSP fragments from assemblage B strains, and the α-1 giardin structural antigen to detect IgG antibodies to Giardia and used the recombinant 17- and 27-kDa antigens to simultaneously detect IgG antibodies to Cryptosporidium. The MBA differentiated between sera from Giardia and Cryptosporidium outbreaks and also identified a giardiasis outbreak that may have included cryptosporidiosis cases. Approximately 40% of cryptosporidiosis outbreak samples had high MBA responses for both the 27- and 17-kDa antigens, while <10% of nonoutbreak and giardiasis outbreak samples had high responses. At least 60% of giardiasis outbreak samples were positive for antibodies to multiple Giardia antigens, while ≤12% of nonoutbreak samples and samples from U.S. and British Columbia cryptosporidiosis outbreaks met our definition for Giardia seropositivity. A MBA using multiple parasite antigens may prove useful in the epidemiologic analysis of future waterborne or food-borne outbreaks of diarrheal disease.
Transmission of the protozoan parasite Giardia lamblia from one to another host individuum occurs through peroral ingestion of cysts which, following excystation in the small intestine, release two trophozoites each. Many studies have focused on the major surface antigen, VSP (for variant surface protein), which is responsible for the antigenic variability of the parasite. By using trophozoites of G. lamblia clone GS/M-83-H7 (expressing VSP H7) and the neonatal mouse model for experimental infections, we quantitatively assessed the process of antigenic variation of the parasite on the transcriptional level. In the present study, variant-specific regions identified on different GS/M-83-H7 vsp sequences served as targets for quantitative reverse transcription-PCR to monitor alterations in vsp mRNA levels during infection. Respective results demonstrated that antigenic switching of both the duodenal trophozoite and the cecal cyst populations was associated with a massive reduction in vsp H7 mRNA levels but not with a simultaneous increase in transcripts of any of the subvariant vsp genes analyzed. Most importantly, we also explored giardial variant-type formation and vsp mRNA levels after infection of mice with cysts. This infection mode led to an antigenic reset of the parasite in that a VSP H7-negative inoculum “converted” into a population of intestinal trophozoites that essentially consisted of the original VSP H7 type. This antigenic reset appears to be associated with excystation rather than with a selective process which favors expansion of a residual population of VSP H7 types within the antigenically diversified cyst inoculum. Based on these findings, the VSP H7 type has to be regarded as a predominant variant of G. lamblia clone GS/M-83-H7 which (re-)emerges during early-stage infection and may contribute to an optimal establishment of the parasite within the intestine of the experimental murine host.
Surface-exposed lipoproteins of relapsing fever (RF) and Lyme borreliosis Borrelia spirochetes mediate certain interactions of the bacteria with their arthropod and vertebrate hosts. RF spirochetes such as Borrelia hermsii serially evade the host's antibody response by multiphasic antigenic variation of Vsp and Vlp proteins. Furthermore, the expression of Vsp1 and Vsp2 by Borrelia turicatae is associated with neurotropism and higher blood densities, respectively. In contrast to RF Borrelia species, the Lyme borreliosis spirochete Borrelia burgdorferi is amenable to genetic manipulation. To facilitate structure-function analyses of RF surface lipoproteins, we used recombinant plasmids to introduce full-length vsp1 and vsp2 as well as two representative vlp genes into B. burgdorferi cells. Recombinant B. burgdorferi cells constitutively expressed the proteins under the control of the B. burgdorferi flaB promoter. Antibody and protease accessibility assays indicated proper surface exposure and folding. Expression of Vsp1 and Vsp2 conferred glycosaminoglycan binding to recombinant B. burgdorferi cells that was similar to that observed with purified recombinant proteins and B. turicatae expressing native Vsp. These data demonstrate that the lipoprotein modification and export mechanisms in the genus Borrelia are conserved. They also validate the use of recombinant B. burgdorferi in studies of surface lipoprotein structure-function and the biogenesis of spirochete membranes.
As a first step toward the design of an epitope vaccine to prevent contagious agalactia, the strongly immunogenic 55-kDa protein of Mycoplasma agalactiae was studied and found to correspond to the AvgC protein encoded by the avgC gene. The avg genes of M. agalactiae, which encode four variable surface lipoproteins, display a significant homology to the vsp (variable membrane surface lipoproteins) genes of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis at their promoter region as well as their N-terminus-encoding regions. Some members of the Vsp family are known to be involved in cytoadhesion to host cells. In order to localize immunogenic peptides in the AvgC antigen, the protein sequence was submitted to epitope prediction analysis, and five sets of overlapping peptides, corresponding to five selected regions, were synthesized by Spot synthesis. Reactive peptides were selected by immunobinding assay with sera from infected sheep. The three most immunogenic epitopes were shown to be surface exposed by immunoprecipitation assays, and one of these was specifically recognized by all tested sera. Our study indicates that selected epitopes of the AvgC lipoprotein may be used to develop a peptide-based vaccine which is effective against M. agalactiae infection.
Developing monocots that accumulate more vegetative tissue protein is one strategy for improving nitrogen-sequestration and nutritive value of forage and silage crops. In soybeans (a dicotyledonous legume), the vspA and B genes encode subunits of a dimeric vegetative storage protein that plays an important role in nitrogen storage in vegetative tissues. Similar genes are found in monocots; however, they do not accumulate in leaves as storage proteins, and the ability of monocot leaves to support accumulation of an ectopically expressed soybean VSP is in question. To test this, transgenic maize (Zea Mays L. Hi-II hybrid) lines were created expressing soybean vspB from a maize ubiquitin Ubi-1 promoter.
From 81 bombardments, 101 plants were regenerated, and plants from five independent lines produced vspB transcripts and VSPβ polypeptides. In leaves from seven-week-old plants (prior to flowering), VSPβ accumulated to 0.5% of the soluble leaf protein in primary transgenic plants (R0), but to only 0.03% in R1 plants. During seed-filling (silage-stage) in R1 plants, the VSPβ protein was no longer detected in leaves and stems despite continued presence of the vspB RNA. The RNA transcripts for this peptide either became less efficiently translated, or the VSPβ protein became unstable during seed-fill.
Developmental differences in the accumulation of soybean VSPβ when transgenically expressed in maize show that despite no changes in the vspB transcript level, VSPβ protein that is readily detected in leaves of preflowering plants, becomes undetectable as seeds begin to develop.
Borrelia hermsii, an agent of relapsing fever, undergoes antigenic variation of serotype-specifying membrane proteins during mammalian infections. When B. hermsii is cultivated in broth medium, one serotype, 33, eventually predominates in the population. Serotype 33 has also been found to be dominant in ticks but not in mammalian hosts. We investigated the biology and genetics of two independently derived clonal populations of serotype 33 of B. hermsii. Both isolates infected immunodeficient mice, but serotype 33 cells were limited in number and were only transiently present in the blood. Probes for vsp33, which encodes the serotype-specifying Vsp33 outer membrane protein, revealed that the gene was located on a 53-kb linear plasmid and that there was only one locus for the gene in serotype 33. The vsp33 probe and probes for other variable membrane protein genes showed that expression of Vsp33 was determined at the level of transcription and that when the vsp33 expression site was active, an expression site for other variable proteins was silent. The study confirmed that serotype 33 is distinct from other serotypes of B. hermsii in its biology and demonstrated that B. hermsii can change its major surface protein through switching between two expression sites.
A genomic cluster of vsp genes was previously shown to mediate high-frequency phenotypic switching of surface lipoprotein antigens in the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis. This study revealed that field strains of M. bovis possess modified versions of the vsp gene complex in which extensive sequence variations occur primarily in the reiterated coding sequences of the vsp structural genes. These findings demonstrate that there is a vastly expanded potential for antigenic variation within populations of this organism.
The cell membrane of a Giardia lamblia trophozoite is covered with a single species of variant-specific surface protein (VSP) that is replaced by another VSP every 6 to 13 generations of cell growth, possibly for an evasion of host immunity. Experimentally, only six VSP species have been verified to localize to the cell membrane thus far. By assuming that VSP contains multiple CXXC motifs, 219 vsp genes were annotated in GiardiaDB of the WB isolate. By further assuming that VSP possesses both CXXC motifs and a CRGKA tail at the C terminus, Adam et al. (BMC Genomics 11:424, 2010) identified a total of 303 potential vsp genes in Giardia WB. The discrepancies between these two assumed VSP identities have caused some confusion. Here, we used experimental approaches to further verify what is required of the structures of a VSP to localize to the surface of cell membrane. The data led to the following conclusions. (i) The C-terminal CRGKA sequence is not essential for localizing VSPs to the cell membrane. (ii) A “motif 1” of 45 residues, consisting of two CXXCs separated by 12 to 15 amino acid residues, located close to the C terminus and a hydrophobic “motif 2” of 38 residues at the C terminus are both essential and sufficient for localizing the protein to the cell membrane. (ii) An N-terminal sequence upstream from motif 1 is not required for targeting VSPs to the cell membrane. By these criteria, we are able to identify 73 open reading frames as the putative vsp genes in Giardia.
The intestinal pathogen Giardia lamblia expresses only one variant-specific surface protein (VSP) on the cell membrane surface at a given time, but it changes spontaneously every 6 to 13 generations of growth, presumably for evading the host immunity. Only 6 VSPs have been empirically shown to localize to the cell membrane surface thus far. Here, we used mutations of VSPs and methods of identifying their locations in Giardia cells and found that a “motif 1” of 45 residues, consisting of two CXXCs separated by 12 to 15 amino acid residues, located close to the C terminus and a hydrophobic “motif 2” of 38 residues at the C terminus are the only essential and sufficient structural requirements for localizing a protein to the cell membrane. By these criteria, 73 genes are identified in the Giardia WB strain genome database as the putative repertoire of VSPs.
Stable mycoplasma antigens for the indirect hemagglutination test (IHA) were prepared employing glutaraldehyde treated sheep erythrocytes sensitized with Mycoplasma agalactiae subsp. bovis and Mycoplasma bovigenitalium antigens. Employing these antigens mycoplasma antibodies were detected in sera from cattle which had mastitic symptoms due to natural infection with either M. agalactiae subsp. bovis or M. bovigenitalium. A total of 200 cows from four herds were examined at varying intervals for the presence of M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and for the detection of antibody using growth inhibition and IHA tests. Mycoplasmas were isolated from 37 animals. Growth inhibiting antibody was detected from 56 of the 200 animals. In the IHA tests, antibody titer greater than or equal to 1:80 were detected in 148 animals, 76 of these having antibody titers greater than or equal to 1:160, while sera of 116 normal control animals had no growth inhibiting antibody and none had IHA antibody titers greater than 1:40. M. bovigenitalium was isolated from the milk of three of 26 animals in a fifth herd during an outbreak of mastitis. Growth inhibiting antibodies were demonstrated in the sera of ten of the 26 animals. However, the IHA test detected antibody titers of greater than or equal to 1:160 in 13 animals and of 1:80 in one of the 26 animals. To determine the specificity of the IHA tests, M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium antigens were reacted with rabbit hyperimmune typing sera produced against 12 species of bovine mycoplasmatales. Homologous antisera showed IHA antibody titers of 1:1280 and 1:2560 against M. agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium respectively, whereas heterologous antisera showed IHA antibody titers of less than or equal to 1:20. Also eight type-specific bovine antisera were reacted with M agalactiae subsp. bovis and M. bovigenitalium antigens in homologous and heterologous tests. Homoogous reactions showed IHA antibody titers greater than or equal to 1:320, whereas heterologous reactions showed IHA titers of less than or equal to 1:20. This IHA test promises to be useful for the detection of bovine mycoplasma antibodies in sera from cattle infected with M. agalactiae subsp. bovis or M. bovigenitalium. Thes test is sensitive, reproducible and specific and the technique is relatively simple and rapid. The antigens were stable for at least seven months.
Giardia lamblia infections are associated with antigenic variation of the parasite, which is generated by a continuous change of the variant-specific surface proteins (VSPs). Many investigations on the process of antigenic variation were based on the use of G. lamblia clone GS/M-83-H7, which expresses VSP H7 as its major surface antigen. In the present study, mice were infected with the aforementioned clonal line to investigate vsp gene expression during the complex process of antigenic variation of the parasite. Trophozoites collected from the intestines of individual animals at different time points postinfection (p.i.) were analyzed directly for their vsp gene expression patterns, i.e., without cultivating the recovered parasites in vitro. Because few trophozoites were recovered at late time points p.i., a combined 5′ rapid amplification of cDNA ends–reverse transcription-PCR approach was utilized. This allowed detection and subsequent sequence analysis of vsp gene transcripts upon generation of amplified cDNA analogues. The same PCR approach was applied for analysis of vsp gene expression in variants obtained after negative selection of axenic GS/M-83-H7 trophozoites by treatment with a cytotoxic, VSP H7-specific monoclonal antibody. In an overall view of the entire panel of in vivo- and in vitro-derived parasite populations, expression of 29 different vsp gene sequences could be demonstrated. In vivo antigenic variation of G. lamblia clone GS/M-83-H7 was shown to be a continuous process involving the consecutive appearance of relatively distinct sets of vsp transcripts. During the 42-day infection period investigated, this process activated at least 22 different vsp genes. Comparative molecular analyses of the amino acid level demonstrated that all cDNA segments identified encode structural elements typical of the terminal segment of Giardia VSP. The similarity of most of the GS/M-83-H7 VSP sequences identified in the present study supports previous suggestions that vsp gene diversification in G. lamblia is the result of ancestral gene duplication, mutation, and/or recombination events.
Relapsing fever (RF) spirochetes are notable for multiphasic antigenic variation of polymorphic outer membrane lipoproteins, a phenomenon responsible for immune evasion. An additional role in tissue localization is suggested by the finding that isogenic serotypes 1 (Bt1) and 2 (Bt2) of the RF spirochete Borrelia turicatae, which differ only in the Vsp they express, exhibit marked differences in clinical disease severity and tissue localization during infection.
Here we used known vsp DNA sequences encoding for B. turicatae and Borrelia hermsii Vsp proteins with variable regions and then studied whether there are differences in disease expression and tissue localization of their corresponding serotypes during mouse infection. For sequence and structural comparisons we focused exclusively on amino acid residues predicted to project away from the spirochetes surface, referred to as the Vsp dome. Disease severity and tissue localization were studied during persistent infection with individual or mixed serotypes in SCID mice. The results showed that all Vsp domes clustered into 3 main trunks, with the domes for B. turicatae Vsp1 (BtVsp1) and BtVsp2 clustering into separate ones. B. hermsii serotypes whose Vsp domes clustered with the BtVsp1 dome were less virulent but localized to the brain more. The BtVsp2 dome was the oddball among all and Bt2 was the only serotype that caused severe arthritis.
These findings indicate that there is significant variability in Vsp dome structure, disease severity, and tissue localization among serotypes of B. hermsii.
We have recently reported that three distinct size- and phase-variable surface lipoproteins (Vsps) of the bovine pathogen Mycoplasma bovis possess a common epitope recognized by monoclonal antibody 1E5. In the present study, we show that this epitope is also present on a size-variant protein (PvpA) of the avian pathogen Mycoplasma gallisepticum. Application of monoclonal antibody 1E5 in Western immunoblot analysis of Triton X-114 phase-fractionated proteins and in colony immunoblots, as well as in trypsin and carboxypeptidase digestion experiments, has demonstrated that (i) PvpA is an integral membrane protein with a free C terminus, (ii) the shared epitope is surface exposed, and (iii) PvpA is subjected to high-frequency phase variation in expression. By using serum antibodies from M. gallisepticum-infected chickens, we were able to demonstrate the immunogenic nature of PvpA and identify three additional highly immunogenic Triton X-114 phase proteins (p67, p72, and p75) also undergoing high-frequency phase variation spontaneously and independently. Metabolic labeling experiments with [14C]palmitate and [14C]oleate revealed that PvpA, in contrast to p67, p72, and p75, is not lipid modified. Southern blot hybridization with restriction fragments carrying the pvpA gene of M. gallisepticum or the vspA gene of M. bovis against digested genomic DNA of the two Mycoplasma species indicated the absence of genetic relatedness between the pvpA and vspA genes. The apparent complexity of the antigenic variation phenomenon in M. gallisepticum is discussed.
Antibody responses are useful indicators of Mycobacterium bovis infection of cattle. Tests for such responses often use multiple M. bovis antigens as detection probes. This is recommended because responses to single antigens may be too variable for consistent diagnosis. However, the use of multiple antigens increases costs and the risk of false-positive results. As an alternative, the SeraLyte-Mbv system detects responses to a single M. bovis antigen, MPB83, by using a chemiluminescent testing platform with a high degree of analytical sensitivity. Testing with the SeraLyte-Mbv system was conducted in a blinded fashion with sera from experimentally infected and control cattle. To assess the species specificity of the single-antigen test, the sample included sera from animals infected with M. bovis (n = 27), M. kansasii (n = 4), M. avium subsp. paratuberculosis (n = 11), M. avium subsp. avium (n = 12), and uninfected animals (n = 15). Upon unblinding of the results, the sensitivity of the SeraLyte-Mbv system relative to the results for animals with known M. bovis infection was 89%. Consistent with the conservation of MPB83 sequences within the genus Mycobacterium, all 4 M. kansasii-infected animals tested positive with the SeraLyte-Mbv system and all 23 M. avium-infected animals tested negative. Blinded analysis of 30 serum samples collected from nine animals at various time points postinfection indicated 100% sensitivity after ≥3 months postinfection. All 15 uninfected samples in the blinded sample set tested negative with the SeraLyte-Mbv system. Unblinded analysis of sera from an additional 895 animals in 10 accredited bovine tuberculosis-free states revealed 98% specificity overall. The results support the feasibility of single-antigen testing for bovine tuberculosis with the SeraLyte-Mbv system.