Contribution to the Study of the Host-Parasite Relationship in Toxoplasma Gondii Infection: Characterization of Fc Receptor Activity on Tachyzoites and Use of DNA Vaccination for the Induction of Protective Immunity in a Murine Model.

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Contribution to the Study of the Host-Parasite Relationship in Toxoplasma Gondii Infection: Characterization of Fc Receptor Activity on Tachyzoites and Use of DNA Vaccination for the Induction of Protective Immunity in a Murine Model.

1) Identification and characterization of a Fc receptor activity on the Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoite.Vercammen M, el Bouhdidi A, Ben Messaoud A, de Meuter F, Bazin H, Dubremetz JF, Carlier Y. Laboratorium voor Toxoplasmose, Pasteur Instituut, Brussels, Belgium. Parasite Immunol. 1998 Jan;20(1):37-47. The Immunoglobulin (Ig) binding capacity of Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites was investigated using fluorescence flow-cytometry analysis. Polyclonal mouse, human and rat immunoglobulins without specific anti-Toxoplasma activity bound to parasites in a concentration-dependent manner, saturating them at circulating serum concentrations. The immunoglobulin class and subclass specificity of binding was investigated using irrelevant monoclonal antibodies. IgM, IgA and IgG reacted with the parasite membrane. The attachment of mouse IgM to the parasite surface was hampered by mouse IgG1, IgG2a, IgG2b and IgG3. The binding of mouse IgG was proportionally reduced with increasing concentrations of mouse monoclonal IgM. The binding of murine immunoglobulin was diminished when in presence of human IgG. Purified Fc- but not Fab portions of immunoglobulins, fixed to parasites. Using labelled calibrated beads, the Ig binding capacity of parasites was estimated to be 6900 +/- 500 sites per tachyzoite. The Kd of the T. gondii Fc Receptor (FcR) activity was determined at 1.4 +/- 0.1 microM (mean +/- SEM). Such FcR activity was reduced by phospholipase C, trypsin and pronase treatment of the parasites. These data show a low affinity FcR activity on T. gondii tachyzoites which recognizes Ig of different species and isotypes and is likely supported by a glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol (GPI)-anchored surface protein of the parasite.

2) Evaluation of recombinant dense granule antigen 7 (GRA7) of Toxoplasma gondii for detection of immunoglobulin G antibodies and analysis of a major antigenic domain. Jacobs D, Vercammen M, Saman E. Innogenetics NV, Ghent B-9052, Belgium. Clin Diagn Lab Immunol. 1999 Jan;6(1):24-9. Dense granule protein 7 (GRA7) of Toxoplasma gondii was expressed in Escherichia coli as a fusion protein. The leader peptide contained a 25-amino-acid mouse tumor necrosis factor fragment and six histidyl residues. After purification by metal chelate affinity chromatography, the antigen was evaluated in an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for detection of immunoglobulin G (IgG). For two sets of IgG-positive human serum samples, obtained from routine screening, an overall sensitivity of 81% was obtained. For chronic-phase sera, the sensitivity of detection was 79%, but chronic-phase sera with low titers were more difficult to detect (65% sensitivity for sera with immunofluorescence titer of 1/64). When GRA7 was combined with Tg34AR (rhoptry protein 2 C-terminal fragment), the sensitivity rose to 96%. For a set of acute-phase serum samples tested on GRA7, the sensitivity of detection was 94%, and high-titer IgM-positive sera were detected at an especially high rate. In contrast, when Tg34AR was used, the sensitivity was only 85% for this latter set of serum samples. Three truncated GRA7 fragments containing the same leader peptide as that of recombinant GRA7 were produced. The shortest fragment (97 N-terminal amino acids) was not reactive with human sera or with a specific anti-GRA7 monoclonal antibody, while the two larger fragments were reactive. The most important antigenic domain of GRA7 for human sera was localized between residues 97 and 146. The epitope for the specific monoclonal antibody could be further narrowed down by the use of synthetic peptides, but this epitope is not recognized by sera from T. gondii-infected humans. These results indicate that GRA7 may be considered as an additional tool for studying the immune response to T. gondii.

3) Opsonization of Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites with nonspecific immunoglobulins promotes their phagocytosis by macrophages and inhibits their proliferation in nonphagocytic cells in tissue culture. Vercammen M, Scorza T, El Bouhdidi A, Van Beeck K, Carlier Y, Dubremetz JF, Verschueren H. Laboratorium voor Toxoplasmose, Pasteur Instituut, Engelandstraat 642, 1180 Brussels, Belgium. Parasite Immunol. 1999 Nov;21(11):555-63.We have recently shown that Toxoplasma gondii tachyzoites grown in in vitro culture can bind unspecific immunoglobulin (Ig) through their Fc moiety. We show now that Fc receptors are also present on T. gondii within the host animal, and that intraperitoneal parasites in immunocompetent mice are saturated with unspecific Ig. We have also investigated the effect of the parasite's Fc receptor on the interaction of tachyzoites with mammalian cells, using the Vero cell line as a model for nonphagocytic host cells and murine peritoneal macrophages in primary culture as a model for phagocytic cells. Coating of tachyzoites with parasite-unrelated Ig did not enhance their invasive capacity in either target cell type, but slightly decreased the parasite proliferation. Moreover, phagocytosis by macrophages was increased by approximately 50% when parasites were coated with unspecific Ig. These results indicate that the Fc receptor on T. gondii affects the balance between invasion and phagocytosis in a way that is detrimental to the parasites.

4) DNA vaccination with genes encoding Toxoplasma gondii antigens GRA1, GRA7, and ROP2 induces partially protective immunity against lethal challenge in mice. Vercammen M, Scorza T, Huygen K, De Braekeleer J, Diet R, Jacobs D, Saman E, Verschueren H. Department of Toxoplasmosis, Pasteur Institute of Brussels, Brussels, Belgium. Infect Immun. 2000 Jan;68(1):38-45. C57BL/6, C3H, and BALB/c mice were vaccinated with plasmids encoding Toxoplasma gondii antigens GRA1, GRA7, and ROP2, previously described as strong inducers of immunity. Seroconversion for the relevant antigen was obtained in the majority of the animals. T. gondii lysate stimulated specific T-cell proliferation and secretion of gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) in spleen cell cultures from vaccinated BALB/c and C3H mice but not in those from control mice. Although not proliferating, stimulated splenocytes from DNA-vaccinated C57BL/6 mice also produced IFN-gamma. No interleukin-4 was detected in the supernatants of lysate-stimulated splenocytes from DNA-vaccinated mice in any of the mouse strains evaluated. As in infected animals, a high ratio of specific immunoglobulin G2a (IgG2a) to IgG1 antibodies was found in DNA-vaccinated C3H mice, suggesting that a Th1-type response had been induced. For BALB/c mice, the isotype ratio of the antibody response to DNA vaccination was less polarized. The protective potential of DNA vaccination was demonstrated in C3H mice. C3H mice vaccinated with plasmid encoding GRA1, GRA7, or ROP2 were partially protected against a lethal oral challenge with cysts of two different T. gondii strains: survival rates increased from 10% in controls to at least 70% after vaccination in one case and from 50% to at least 90% in the other. In vaccinated C3H mice challenged with a nonlethal T. gondii dose, the number of brain cysts was significantly lower than in controls. DNA vaccination did not protect BALB/c or C57BL/6 mice. Our results demonstrate for the first time in an animal model a partially protective effect of DNA vaccination against T. gondii.

5) Identification of a 200- to 300-fold repetitive 529 bp DNA fragment in Toxoplasma gondii, and its use for diagnostic and quantitative PCR. Homan WL, Vercammen M, De Braekeleer J, Verschueren H. Microbiological Laboratory for Health Protection, National Institute of Public Health and the Environment, Bilthoven, The Netherlands. Int J Parasitol. 2000 Jan;30(1):69-75. We have identified a novel 529bp fragment that is repeated 200- to 300-fold in the genome of Toxoplasma gondii. This 529bp fragment was utilised for the development of a very sensitive and specific PCR for diagnostic purposes, and a quantitative competitive-PCR for the evaluation of cyst numbers in the brains of chronically infected mice. The 529bp fragment was found in all 60 strains of T. gondii tested, and it discriminates DNA of T. gondii from that of other parasites. Toxoplasma gondii DNA was detected in amniotic fluid of patients, as well as in various tissues from infected mice. Polymerase chain reaction with the 529bp fragment was more sensitive than with the 35-copy B1 gene. For the quantitative competitive-PCR, a 410-bp competitor molecule was co-amplified with similar efficiency as the 529bp fragment. Quantitative competitive-PCR produced a linear relationship between the relative amounts of PCR product and the number of tachyzoites in the range of 10(2)-10(4) tachyzoites and 100-3000 tissue cysts. A highly significant correlation between visual counting of brain cysts and quantitative competitive-PCR was obtained in mice chronically infected with Toxoplasma. Thus, quantitative competitive-PCR with the 529bp fragment can be used as an alternative for the tedious visual counting of brain cysts in experimental animals. With the quantitative competitive-PCR, furthermore, we could confirm the copy number of the 529bp fragment in tachyzoites and estimate the number of bradyzoites per cyst.
Date of AwardAug 2001
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorPatrick De Baetselier (Promotor)


  • toxoplasmosis
  • DNA vaccination
  • Quantitative PCR
  • Fc Receptor
  • Toxoplasma gondii
  • Immunology

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