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PLoS One. 2012;7(4):e36012. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0036012. Epub 2012 Apr 25.

Expression patterns of Anaplasma marginale Msp2 variants change in response to growth in cattle, and tick cells versus mammalian cells.

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  • 1Department of Entomology, University of Minnesota, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA. chave028@umn.edu

Abstract

Antigenic variation of major surface proteins is considered an immune-evasive maneuver used by pathogens as divergent as bacteria and protozoa. Likewise, major surface protein 2 (Msp2) of the tick-borne pathogen, Anaplasma marginale, is thought to be involved in antigenic variation to evade the mammalian host immune response. However, this dynamic process also works in the tick vector in the absence of immune selection pressure. We examined Msp2 variants expressed during infection of four tick and two mammalian cell-lines to determine if the presence of certain variants correlated with specific host cell types. Anaplasma marginale colonies differed in their development and appearance in each of the cell lines (P<0.001). Using Western blots probed with two Msp2-monospecific and one Msp2-monoclonal antibodies, we detected expression of variants with differences in molecular weight. Immunofluorescence-assay revealed that specific antibodies bound from 25 to 60% of colonies, depending on the host cell-line (P<0.001). Molecular analysis of cloned variant-encoding genes demonstrated expression of different predominant variants in tick (V1) and mammalian (V2) cell-lines. Analysis of the putative secondary structure of the variants revealed a change in structure when A. marginale was transferred from one cell-type to another, suggesting that the expression of particular Msp2 variants depended on the cell-type (tick or mammalian) in which A. marginale developed. Similarly, analysis of the putative secondary structure of over 200 Msp2 variants from ticks, blood samples, and other mammalian cells available in GenBank showed the predominance of a specific structure during infection of a host type (tick versus blood sample), demonstrating that selection of a possible structure also occurred in vivo. The selection of a specific structure in surface proteins may indicate that Msp2 fulfils an important role in infection and adaptation to diverse host systems. Supplemental Abstract in Spanish (File S1) is provided.

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