The immune responses to Pneumocystis jirovecii major surface glycoprotein (Msg) in individuals with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection are poorly understood.
We examined the sequential serologic responses to recombinant Msg carboxyl terminus fragments (MsgC1, MsgC3, MsgC8, and MsgC9) by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in a cohort of individuals with HIV infection for the 5.5 years before death and autopsy. Analyses included mean antibody levels by status at death (Pneumocystis pneumonia, P. jirovecii colonization, or neither), factors associated with high antibody levels, and antibody responses before and after active Pneumocystis pneumonia.
Patients who died from Pneumocystis pneumonia had higher levels of antibody to MsgC8 than did patients who died from other causes. Previous episode of Pneumocystis pneumonia, geographic location, and age were independent predictors of high levels of anitbodies to most or all Msgs. Failure to take Pneumocystis pneumonia prophylaxis was associated with high levels of antibody to MsgC1. Patients who developed and recovered from active Pneumocystis pneumonia during the study exhibited an increase in serum antibody levels that persisted for months after the infection, whereas patients who developed another acquired immunodeficiency syndrome–defining illness did not.
Serum antibodies to Msgs are important markers of P. jirovecii infection in patients with HIV infection and are influenced by host and environmental factors in complex ways.
The use of recombinant fragments of the major surface glycoprotein (Msg) of Pneumocystis jirovecii has proven useful for studying serological immune responses of blood donors and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-positive (HIV+) patients. Here, we have used ELISA to measure antibody titres to Msg fragments (MsgA, MsgB, MsgC1, MsgC3, MsgC8 and MsgC9) in sera isolated in the USA and Spain, to determine whether geographical location affects serological responses to these antigens. Blood donors from Seville exhibited a significantly greater antibody titre to MsgC8, and significantly lower responses to MsgC3 and MsgC9, than did Cincinnati (USA) donors. Spanish blood donors also exhibited elevated responses to MsgC1, MsgC8 and MsgC9 as compared with Spanish HIV+ patients . HIV+ patients who had Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP+) exhibited a higher response to MsgC8 than did HIV+ PcP- patients. These data show that geographical location plays a role in responsiveness to Msg fragments. Additionally, these fragments have utility in differentiating between patient populations.
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The genome of Pneumocystis, which causes life-threatening pneumonia in immunosuppressed patients, contains a multi-copy gene family that encodes the major surface glycoprotein (Msg). Pneumocystis can vary the expressed Msg, presumably as a mechanism to avoid host immune responses. Analysis of 24 msg gene sequences obtained from a single human Pneumocystis isolate demonstrated that the sequences segregate into two branches. Based on a number of analyses, recombination among msg genes appears to be an important mechanism for generating msg diversity. Intra-branch recombination occurred more frequently than inter-branch recombination. Restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis demonstrated substantial variation in the repertoire of the msg gene family among isolates of human Pneumocystis, which was not observed in laboratory isolates of rat or mouse Pneumocystis; this may be the result of examining outbred vs. captive populations. Increased diversity in the Msg repertoire, generated in part by recombination, increases the potential for antigenic variation in this abundant surface protein.
AIDS; Pneumocystis; antigenic variation; repertoire; immune evasion; major surface glycoprotein
Naturally derived T-cell responses by rats to a 120-kDa major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of rat-derived Pneumocystis carinii were analyzed in vitro. Specific cytokines elicited by the T-cell response to the MSG were also identified. MSG was purified from rat-derived P. carinii by three different techniques: lectin affinity chromatography, sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis followed by electroelution, and size-exclusion high-performance liquid chromatography. The cell-mediated immunity of spleen cells isolated from Lewis rats with and without natural exposure to P. carinii to the purified MSG was studied. Exposure to P. carinii was monitored by the presence or absence of serum antibodies to P. carinii antigens by Western blotting (immunoblotting). A T-cell proliferative response to the MSG was identified only with spleen cells isolated from rats exposed to P. carinii and peaked at 4 days. Flow cytometric analysis revealed that the percentage of CD4 cells was significantly increased during the proliferative response to MSG. MSG also elicited secretion of tumor necrosis factor alpha, interleukin-1, and interleukin-2, with peak activity of these cytokines occurring after 12, 24, and 48 h, respectively, of culture. These findings suggest that MSG is important in host T-cell recognition of and immune response to P. carinii by recruitment of inflammatory cells and cytokine production.
Recombinant clones of the carboxyl terminus of the major surface glycoprotein (MsgC) of Pneumocystis jirovecii are useful for analyzing serologic responses in humans. However, there is no standardized set of antigens in general use, which could lead to conflicting results. We have previously shown that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-infected patients with prior Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP+) responded more frequently and more strongly to a clone of MsgC than did HIV-1-infected patients without PcP (PcP−). Here we test three new clones of MsgC to determine the effect of antigenic sequence variation on immune reactivity in blood donors and HIV-infected patients previously analyzed for reactivity to our original MsgC clone. In Western blot analyses, PcP+ patients exhibited the highest frequency of reactivity to each MsgC clone, and the frequency of reactivity with all four MsgC clones together was significantly higher in sera from PcP+ patients than in sera from the other patient groups. Furthermore, in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay we found that the PcP+ population had the highest level of reactivity to two of the four clones tested. One of the new clones could distinguish between PcP+ and PcP− populations, and two MsgC clones could distinguish blood donors from the other patient populations. The results show that inherent differences in MsgC amino acid sequence can affect recognition by antibodies independently of variations in protein length or patient population, and the utility of a clone depends on its sequence and on the populations tested.
Little is known about the serologic responses to Pneumocystis jirovecii major surface glycoprotein (Msg) antigen in African cohorts, or the IgM responses to Msg in HIV-positive and HIV-negative persons with respiratory symptoms.
We conducted a prospective study of 550 patients, both HIV-positive (n = 467) and HIV-negative (n = 83), hospitalized with cough ≥2 weeks in Kampala, Uganda, to evaluate the association between HIV status, CD4 cell count, and other clinical predictors and antibody responses to P. jirovecii. We utilized ELISA to measure the IgM and IgG serologic responses to three overlapping recombinant fragments that span the P. jirovecii major surface glycoprotein: MsgA (amino terminus), MsgB (middle portion) and MsgC1 (carboxyl terminus), and to three variations of MsgC1 (MsgC3, MsgC8 and MsgC9).
HIV-positive patients demonstrated significantly lower IgM antibody responses to MsgC1, MsgC3, MsgC8 and MsgC9 compared to HIV-negative patients. We found the same pattern of low IgM antibody responses to MsgC1, MsgC3, MsgC8 and MsgC9 among HIV-positive patients with a CD4 cell count <200 cells/µl compared to those with a CD4 cell count ≥200 cells/µl. HIV-positive patients on PCP prophylaxis had significantly lower IgM responses to MsgC3 and MsgC9, and lower IgG responses to MsgA, MsgC1, MsgC3, and MsgC8. In contrast, cigarette smoking was associated with increased IgM antibody responses to MsgC1 and MsgC3 but was not associated with IgG responses. We evaluated IgM and IgG as predictors of mortality. Lower IgM responses to MsgC3 and MsgC8 were both associated with increased in-hospital mortality.
HIV infection and degree of immunosuppression are associated with reduced IgM responses to Msg. In addition, low IgM responses to MsgC3 and MsgC8 are associated with increased mortality.
Immune responses to Pneumocystis jirovecii are not well understood in HIV infection, but antibody responses to proteins may be useful as a marker of Pneumocystis risk or presence of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP).
Retrospective analysis of a prospective cohort
Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays of antibodies to recombinant Pneumocystis proteins of major surface glycoprotein fragments (MsgC1, C3, C8, and C9) and of antibody titers to recombinant kexin protein (KEX1) were performed on three sequential serum samples up to 18 months prior to and three samples after first AIDS-defining illness from Multicenter AIDS Cohort Study participants and compared between those who had PcP or a non-PcP AIDS-defining illness.
Fifty-four participants had PcP and 47 had a non-PcP AIDS-defining illness. IgG levels to MsgC fragments were similar between groups prior to first AIDS-defining illness, but the PcP group had higher levels of IgG to MsgC9 (median units/ml 50.2 vs. 22.2, p=0.047) post-illness. Participants with PcP were more likely to have an increase in MsgC3 (OR 3.9, p=0.02), MsgC8 (OR 5.5, p=0.001), and MsgC9 (OR 4.0, p=0.007). The PcP group was more likely to have low KEX1 IgG prior to development of PcP (OR 3.6, p=0.048) independent of CD4 cell count and to have an increase in high IgG titers to KEX1 after PcP.
HIV-infected individuals develop immune responses to both Msg and kexin proteins after PcP. Low KEX1 IgG titers may be a novel marker of future PcP risk before CD4 cell count has declined below 200 cells/μl.
HIV; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome; Pneumocystis; serology
Humans may be a reservoir for this pathogen and transmit it from person to person.
The reservoir and mode of transmission of Pneumocystis jirovecii remain uncertain. We conducted a cross-sectional study of 126 San Francisco General Hospital staff in clinical (n = 103) and nonclinical (n = 23) occupations to assess whether occupational exposure was associated with immune responses to P. jirovecii. We examined antibody levels by ELISA for 3 overlapping fragments that span the P. jirovecii major surface glycoprotein (Msg): MsgA, MsgB, and MsgC1. Clinical occupation participants had higher geometric mean antibody levels to MsgC1 than did nonclinical occupation participants (21.1 vs. 8.2, p = 0.004); clinical occupation was an independent predictor of higher MsgC1 antibody levels (parameter estimate = 0.89, 95% confidence interval 0.29–1.48, p = 0.003). In contrast, occupation was not significantly associated with antibody responses to either MsgA or MsgB. Healthcare workers may have occupational exposure to P. jirovecii. Humans may be a reservoir for P. jirovecii and may transmit it from person to person.
Pneumocystis; health personnel; HIV/AIDS and other retroviruses; opportunistic infections; antibodies; fungal; fungi; serologic tests; research
Seroepidemiologic studies of Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) in humans have been limited by inadequate reagents. We have developed an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using three overlapping recombinant fragments of the human Pneumocystis major surface glycoprotein (MsgA, MsgB, and MsgC) for analysis of antibody responses in HIV-positive patients and healthy blood donors. HIV-positive patients had significantly higher antibody levels to all Msg fragments. Furthermore, HIV-positive patients who experienced a previous episode of PCP (PCP-positive) had higher level of antibodies to MsgC than patients who never had PCP. A significant association was found between ELISA antibody level and reactivity by Western blot in HIV-positive patients, especially those who were PCP-positive. Thus, this ELISA will be useful in studying serum antibody responses to Pneumocystis in different human populations.
Pneumocystis; Major surface glycoprotein; Infection; ELISA; HIV patients; Serum antibodies
Cameroon lacks the capacity for routine Pneumocystis pneumonia (PcP) diagnosis thus, the prevalence of Cameroonian exposure to this microbe is unknown. It is known that Pneumocystis infecting different mammalian host species represent diverse phylogenetic backgrounds and are now designated as separate species. The highly sensitive nature of ELISA and the specificity afforded by using human-derived P. jirovecii Msg peptides has been shown to be useful for serological analysis of human sera. Thus, sera from patients in Yaoundé, the capital city of Cameroon, were analyzed for anti-P. jirovecii antibodies by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) using three recombinant major surface glycoprotein (Msg) peptide fragments, MsgA1, MsgB, and MsgC1. Based on serum recognition of one or more of the three fragments, 82% of the total samples analyzed was positive for antibodies to P. jirovecii Msg, indicating high prevalence of P. jirovecii infection or colonization among Cameroonians. Different Msg fragments appear to be recognized more frequently by sera from different geographic regions of the globe. Antibodies in the Cameroonian serum samples recognized MsgA>MsgC>MsgB, suggesting that different P. jirovecii strains exist in different parts of the world and/or human populations differ in their response to P. jirovecii. Also, HIV+ patients diagnosed with respiratory infections (such as TB and pneumonia) and maintained on trimethoprim/sulfamethoxazol prophylaxis had relatively lower anti-Msg titers. Whether PcP prophylaxis has significant effects on the quality of life among HIV+ patients in Cameroon warrants further investigation.
glycoprotein (Msg); recombinant protein; serology; sub-Sahara Africa
Previously, we have shown that a multicopy family of related but unique genes encodes the major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of Pneumocystis carinii. To examine whether different members of this gene family are expressed by P. carinii, antisera were prepared against peptides whose sequences were determined from the deduced amino acid sequences of variants of rat-derived MSG. Immunohistochemical staining of serial sections of rat lungs of infected animals showed that at least three variants of MSG were expressed in an individual lobe, that there was a focal expression of these variants within the lung, and that the relative numbers of these foci were different. Indirect immunofluorescent staining of purified P. carinii organisms using these antisera revealed that at least three variants of MSG were present in organisms isolated from an individual rat and that both cysts and trophozoites reacted with each antiserum. A substantial difference in the fraction of organisms reacting with a specific antipeptide antiserum was seen when comparing organisms isolated from rats raised in a single colony over a period of two years as well as organisms isolated at one time point from rats raised in different colonies. This demonstration of antigenic variation in P. carinii supports the hypothesis that P. carinii utilizes such variation for evading host defense mechanisms.
Pneumocystis jirovecii remains an important cause of fatal pneumonia (Pneumocystis pneumonia or PcP) in HIV+ patients and other immunocompromised hosts. Despite many previous attempts, a clinically useful serologic test for P. jirovecii infection has never been developed.
We analyzed serum antibody responses to the P. jirovecii major surface glycoprotein recombinant fragment C1 (MsgC1) in 110 HIV+ patients with active PcP (cases) and 63 HIV+ patients with pneumonia due to other causes (controls) by an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The cases had significantly higher IgG and IgM antibody levels to MsgC1 than the controls at hospital admission (week 0) and intervals up to at least 1 month thereafter. The sensitivity, specificity and positive predictive value (PPV) of IgG antibody levels increased from 57.2%, 61.7% and 71.5% at week 0 to 63.4%, 100%, and 100%, respectively, at weeks 3–4. The sensitivity, specificity and PPV of IgM antibody levels rose from 59.7%, 61.3%, and 79.3% at week 0 to 74.6%, 73.7%, and 89.8%, respectively, at weeks 3–4. Multivariate analysis revealed that a diagnosis of PcP was the only independent predictor of high IgG and IgM antibody levels to MsgC1. A high LDH level, a nonspecific marker of lung damage, was an independent predictor of low IgG antibody levels to MsgC1.
The results suggest that the ELISA shows promise as an aid to the diagnosis of PCP in situations where diagnostic procedures cannot be performed. Further studies in other patient populations are needed to better define the usefulness of this serologic test.
We conducted a prospective pilot study of the serologic responses to overlapping recombinant fragments of the Pneumocystis jirovecii major surface glycoprotein (Msg) in HIV-infected patients with pneumonia due to P. jirovecii and other causes. Similar baseline geometric mean antibody levels to the fragments measured by an ELISA were found in both groups. Serum antibodies to MsgC in P. jirovecii patients rose to a peak level 3–4 weeks (p<0.001) after recovery from pneumocystosis; baseline CD4+ count >50 cells/μL and first episode of pneumocystosis were the principal host factors associated with this rise (both p<0.001). Thus, MsgC shows promise as a serologic reagent and should be tested further in clinical and epidemiologic studies.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV); Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS); Pneumocystis pneumonia; Pneumocystis jirovecii; Recombinant antigens; Major surface glycoprotein (Msg); Serum antibody responses; Enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA); CD4+ cells; First episode pneumocystosis
To characterize the seroepidemiological features of Pneumocystis jirovecii infection in healthy Chilean children using overlapping fragments (A, B, C) of the P. jirovecii major surface glycoprotein (Msg).
Serum antibodies to MsgA, MsgB, and MsgC were measured every 2 months by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in 45 Chilean infants from about age 2 months to 2 years.
Peak antibody levels (usually reached at age 6 months) and the force (or rate) of infection were somewhat greater for MsgC than for MsgA. Significant seasonal variation in antibody levels was only found with MsgA. Respiratory infections occurred in most children, but nasopharyngeal aspirates were of limited value in detecting the organism. In contrast, serological responses commonly occurred, and higher levels only to MsgC were significantly related to the number of infections.
Serological responses to recombinant Msg fragments provide new insights into the epidemiological and clinical features of P. jirovecii infection of early childhood. MsgA, the amino terminus fragment, is more sensitive in detecting seasonal influences on antibody levels, whereas MsgC is better able to detect changes in antibody levels in response to clinical infection.
Serological responses; Pneumocystis; Major surface glycoprotein (Msg); Children
Pneumocystis carinii is a major opportunistic pathogen and a leading cause of morbidity in patients with AIDS. CD4+ cells have been shown to be important in host defenses against P. carinii, but the antigen(s) involved with this response have not been identified. We undertook the present study to determine whether the major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of P. carinii contains epitopes that can elicit a protective cellular immune response. Spleen cells and purified CD4+ cells isolated from Lewis rats, pulsed 1-4 d with MSG, and injected into corticosteroid-treated Lewis rats with pneumocystosis resulted in significant reduction in the P. carinii burden, as judged by organism quantitation and lung histology. The protective response demonstrated by the donor cells was dependent on previous exposure to P. carinii, cell concentration, and time of incubation with MSG. In addition, reconstitution with MSG-specific CD4+ cells resulted in an early hyperinflammatory response within the lungs of these animals with a high percentage of mortality. Thus, in this model, MSG can elicit an immune response mediated by CD4+ cells, which has a harmful as well as helpful effect on the host, and these responses occur despite the presence of corticosteroids.
Serologic studies can provide important insights into the epidemiology and transmission of Pneumocystis jirovecii. Exposure to P. jirovecii can be assessed by serum antibody responses to recombinant antigens from the major surface glycoprotein (MsgC), although factors that influence the magnitude of the antibody response are incompletely understood. We determined the magnitudes of antibody responses to P. jirovecii in comparison to adenovirus and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in HIV-infected and uninfected patients and identified predictors associated with the magnitude of the response. We performed a cross-sectional analysis using serum samples and data from 153 HIV-positive and 92 HIV-negative subjects enrolled in a feasibility study of the Veterans Aging Cohort 5 Site Study (VACS 5). Antibodies were measured using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Independent predictors of antibody responses were determined using multivariate Tobit regression models. The results showed that serum antibody responses to P. jirovecii MsgC fragments were significantly and independently decreased in current smokers. Antibodies to P. jirovecii also tended to be lower with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hazardous alcohol use, injection drug use, and HIV infection, although these results were not statistically significant. These results were specific to P. jirovecii and did not correlate with adenovirus. Antibody responses to RSV were in the inverse direction. Thus, current smoking was independently associated with decreased P. jirovecii antibody responses. Whether smoking exerts an immunosuppressive effect that affects the P. jirovecii antibody response, colonization, or subsequent risk for disease is unclear; prospective, longitudinal studies are needed to evaluate these findings further.
The relationship between the parasitic fungus Pneumocystis carinii and its host, the laboratory rat, presumably involves features that allow the fungus to circumvent attacks by the immune system. It is hypothesized that the major surface glycoprotein (MSG) gene family endows Pneumocystis with the capacity to vary its surface. This gene family is comprised of approximately 80 genes, which each are approximately 3 kb long. Expression of the MSG gene family is regulated by a cis-dependent mechanism that involves a unique telomeric site in the genome called the expression site. Only the MSG gene adjacent to the expression site is represented by messenger RNA. Several P. carinii MSG genes have been sequenced, which showed that genes in the family can encode distinct isoforms of MSG. The vast majority of family members have not been characterized at the sequence level.
The first 300 basepairs of MSG genes were subjected to analysis herein. Analysis of 581 MSG sequence reads from P. carinii genomic DNA yielded 281 different sequences. However, many of the sequence reads differed from others at only one site, a degree of variation consistent with that expected to be caused by error. Accounting for error reduced the number of truly distinct sequences observed to 158, roughly twice the number expected if the gene family contains 80 members. The size of the gene family was verified by PCR. The excess of distinct sequences appeared to be due to allelic variation. Discounting alleles, there were 73 different MSG genes observed. The 73 genes differed by 19% on average. Variable regions were rich in nucleotide differences that changed the encoded protein. The genes shared three regions in which at least 16 consecutive basepairs were invariant. There were numerous cases where two different genes were identical within a region that was variable among family members as a whole, suggesting recombination among family members.
A set of sequences that represents most if not all of the members of the P. carinii MSG gene family was obtained. The protein-changing nature of the variation among these sequences suggests that the family has been shaped by selection for protein variation, which is consistent with the hypothesis that the MSG gene family functions to enhance phenotypic variation among the members of a population of P. carinii.
To facilitate studies of Pneumocystis carinii infection in humans, we undertook to better characterize and to express the major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of human P. carinii, an important protein in host-pathogen interactions. Seven MSG genes were cloned from a single isolate by PCR or genomic library screening and were sequenced. The predicted proteins, like rat MSGs, were closely related but unique variants, with a high level of conservation among cysteine residues. A conserved immunodominant region (of approximately 100 amino acids) near the carboxy terminus was expressed at high levels in Escherichia coli and used in Western blot studies. All 49 of the serum samples, which were taken from healthy controls as well as from patients with and without P. carinii pneumonia, were reactive with this peptide by Western blotting, supporting the hypothesis that most adult humans have been infected with P. carinii at some point. This recombinant MSG fragment, which is the first human P. carinii antigen available in large quantities, may be a useful reagent for investigating the epidemiology of P. carinii infection in humans.
The major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. carinii is a family of proteins encoded by a family of heterogeneous genes. Messenger RNAs encoding different MSGs each begin with the same 365-bp sequence, called the Upstream Conserved Sequence (UCS), which is in frame with the contiguous MSG sequence. The UCS contains several potential start sites for translation. To determine if translation of MSG mRNAs begins in the UCS, polyclonal antiserum was raised against the 123-amino-acid peptide encoded by the UCS. The anti-UCS serum reacted with a P. carinii protein that migrated at 170 kDa; however, it did not react with the mature MSG protein, which migrates at 116 kDa. A 170-kDa protein was immunoprecipitated with anti-UCS serum and shown to react with a monoclonal antibody against a conserved MSG epitope. To explore the functional role of the UCS in the trafficking of MSG, the nucleotide sequence encoding the UCS peptide was ligated to the 5′ end of an MSG gene and incorporated into a recombinant baculovirus. Insect cells infected with the UCS-MSG hybrid gene expressed a 160-kDa protein which was N-glycosylated. By contrast, insect cells infected with a baculovirus carrying an MSG gene lacking the UCS expressed a nonglycosylated 130-kDa protein. These data suggest that in P. carinii, translation begins in the UCS to produce a pre-MSG protein, which is subsequently directed to the endoplasmic reticulum and processed to the mature form by proteolytic cleavage.
The major surface glycoprotein (MSG) of Pneumocystis carinii f. sp. carinii consists of a heterogeneous family of proteins that are encoded by approximately 100 unique genes. A genomic expression library was screened with a panel of MSG-specific monoclonal antibodies (MAbs) to identify conserved and rare epitopes. All of the antibodies reacted with epitopes that are encoded within the 5′ end of MSG. The results from the expression screening identified antibodies that recognize highly conserved, moderately conserved, and rare epitopes. Four MAbs (MAbs RA-F1, RA-E7, RA-G10, and RB-E3) reacted with a maltose binding protein–MSG-B fusion protein (MBPMSG-B41–1065) by immunoblotting and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. Three of the MAbs (MAbs RA-F1, RA-G10, and RA-E7) reacted with the same continuous epitope that was localized to amino acids 278 to 290 of MSG-B. Comparison of the sequence of the RA-F1-, RA-G10-, and RA-E7-reactive epitope to the deduced amino acid sequences of multiple MSGs demonstrated that it is highly conserved. The reactivity of RB-E3 with MSG-B was shown to be dependent on amino acids 184 to 192, which may comprise a portion of a discontinuous epitope.
Pneumocystis carinii expresses a surface glycoprotein called MSG. Different isoforms of MSG are encoded by a gene family spread over at least 15 telomeric sites. Only one locus, called UCS, supports the production of MSG mRNA. Previous studies showed that P. carinii populations from individual rats exhibited high degrees of diversity with respect to the MSG genes attached to the UCS locus. This diversity could have been generated primarily in the rats studied. Alternatively, the rats may have been infected by P. carinii organisms that were already different at the UCS locus. To investigate this issue, we examined the UCS locus in P. carinii from rats that had been exposed to few of the microbes at a specified time, which produced a bottleneck in the microbial population. Some of the rats with bottlenecks produced P. carinii populations in which a single MSG sequence resided at the UCS locus in 80 to 90% of the organisms, showing that P. carinii can proliferate within a rat without generating the very high levels of UCS diversity previously seen. From the degree of diversity observed in the bottlenecked populations, the maximum rate of switching appeared to be 0.01 event per generation. These data also suggest that the infectious dose is as low as one organism, that rats that share a cage readily infect each other, and that the doubling time of P. carinii in vivo is ∼3 days. In addition, we found that inoculation with 107 P. carinii organisms from a population highly heterogeneous at the UCS locus reproduced this heterogeneity. By contrast, shifts in population structure occurred in rats given 104 P. carinii organisms, suggesting that a small fraction of these proliferated.
Pneumocystis carinii has been shown to cause extra-alveolar infections in humans, but the lack of a reproducible animal model has hindered the elucidation of mechanisms of P. carinii dissemination. In the present study, PCR and the immunosuppressed rat model were used to gain further insight into the dissemination of P. carinii organisms in extrapulmonary (EP) tissues. Primer sequences specific to major surface glycoprotein (MSG) and dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) were used to detect P. carinii in lungs and EP tissues. Sprague-Dawley rats were grouped into two classes: one group included rats that had primary episodes of pneumocystosis and the other group included rats that had undergone treatment for P. carinii infection and that had second episodes of pneumocystosis. PCR analysis with MSG primers with tissues obtained from both groups of rats showed the presence of P. carinii DNA in adrenal tissue, bone marrow, blood, and heart, kidney, liver, lymph node, spleen, and thyroid tissues. Reverse transcriptase-PCR (RT-PCR) analysis was carried out with DHFR primers with lung, spleen, heart, kidney, and liver tissues from both groups of rats. Only those tissues that showed a positive PCR result and hybridization signal for the MSG gene were used for the RT-PCR experiments. RT-PCR analysis showed that the P. carinii DHFR gene is actively transcribed in these tissues, thereby indicating the presence of viable P. carinii organisms in EP tissues. Our observations suggest that P. carinii dissemination is influenced by factors other than P. carinii chemotherapy and that heavy organism load and destruction of lung tissue may contribute to the dissemination of P. carinii. The study provides an animal model that can be used for further investigations of the causes of EP pneumocystosis.
T cells have been shown to be important in recovery from Pneumocystis carinii pneumonitis, although no specific antigen of P. carinii has been defined as containing T-cell epitopes. P. carinii has an abundant mannosylated surface glycoprotein of approximately 120 kDa (gp120) which induces a prominent host antibody response in experimental animals after exposure to P. carinii in the environment or after recovery from P. carinii pneumonitis. P. carinii gp120 was purified from infected lungs by lectin affinity chromatography. Standard in vitro lymphocyte stimulation assays using purified gp120 and control normal lung preparations were performed on isolated T cells obtained from BALB/c mice after immunization with P. carinii-infected crude lung homogenates or lectin-purified gp120. Lymphocytes from reconstituted severe combined immunodeficient mice which had recovered from naturally acquired P. carinii pneumonitis were also tested. A specific T-cell response was elicited by gp120 after immunization with P. carinii gp120 and after recovery from P. carinii pneumonitis. In addition, the mice developed a strong antibody response to gp120 as ascertained by Western blot (immunoblot). These data suggest that gp120 may be important in the recognition of P. carinii by T cells.
Pneumocystis carinii is an opportunistic fungal pathogen that causes life-threatening pneumonia in immunocompromised individuals. Infants appear to be particularly susceptible to infection with Pneumocystis. We have previously shown that there is a significant delay in clearance of the organisms from the lungs of neonatal mice compared to adults. Since alveolar macrophages are the effector cells responsible for killing and clearance of Pneumocystis, we have examined alveolar macrophage activity in neonatal mice. We found that alveolar macrophage activation is delayed about 1 week in Pneumocystis-infected neonates compared to adults. Opsonization of the organism by Pneumocystis-specific antibody resulted in increased clearance of the organism in neonatal mice; however, there was decreased expression of activation markers on neonatal alveolar macrophages and reduced levels of cytokines associated with macrophage activation. Mice born to immunized dams had significant amounts of Pneumocystis-specific immunoglobulin G in their lungs and serum at day 7 postinfection, whereas mice born to naïve dams had merely detectable levels. This difference correlated with enhanced Pneumocystis clearance in mice born to immunized dams. The increase in specific antibody, however, did not result in significant inflammation in the lungs, as no differences in numbers of activated CD4+ cells were observed. Furthermore, there was no difference in cytokine or chemokine concentrations in the lungs of pups born to immune compared to naïve dams. These findings indicate that specific antibody plays an important role in Pneumocystis clearance from lungs of infected neonates; moreover, this process occurs without inducing inflammation in the lungs.
Recent studies suggest that interleukin-8 (IL-8) and tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-alpha) may play a central role in host defense and pathogenesis during Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia. In order to investigate whether the major surface antigen (MSG) of human P. carinii is capable of eliciting the release of IL-8 and TNF-alpha, human monocytes were cultured in the presence of purified MSG. MSG-stimulated cells released significant amounts of IL-8 within 4 h, and at 20 h, cells stimulated with MSG released 45.5 +/- 9.3 ng of IL-8/ml versus 3.7 +/- 1.1 ng/ml for control cultures (P = 0.01). In a similar fashion, MSG elicited release of TNF-alpha. Initial increases were also seen at 4 h, and at 20 h, TNF-alpha levels reached 6.4 +/- 1.1 ng/ml, compared to 0.08 +/- 0.01 ng/ml for control cultures (P < 0.01). A concentration-dependent increase in IL-8 and TNF-alpha secretion was observed at 20 h with 0.2 to 5 microg of MSG/ml (P < 0.01). Secretion of IL-8 and TNF-alpha from MSG-stimulated monocytes at 20 h was inhibited by 60 and 86%, respectively, after coincubation with soluble yeast mannan (P = 0.01). With an RNase protection assay, increases in steady-state mRNA levels for IL-8 and TNF-alpha were detectable at 4 h. These data show that recognition of MSG by monocytes involves a mannose-mediated mechanism and results in the release of the proinflammatory cytokines IL-8 and TNF-alpha.