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Proc Biol Sci. 2000 Dec 22;267(1461):2511-6.

Antigenic role of the endosymbionts of filarial nematodes: IgG response against the Wolbachia surface protein in cats infected with Dirofilaria immitis.

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Istituto di Patologia Generale Veterinaria, Università di Milano, Italy.


Filarial nematodes harbour intracellular endosymbiotic bacteria, which have been assigned to the genus Wolbachia. These bacteria appear to play an important role in the pathogenesis of filarial diseases through their lipopolysaccharides. In view of the presence of Wolbachia endosymbionts in the body of filarial nematodes, one might also expect that proteins from these bacteria play an antigenic role in humans and animals affected by filariases. To test this hypothesis, we produced in recombinant form the surface protein WSP and a portion of the cell-cycle protein FTSZ from the Wolbachia of Dirofilaria immitis. Western immunoblot assays were then performed using cat sera to test the immunogenicity of these proteins. Sera were collected from owners' cats, which were either sero-negative or sero-positive for D. immitis and from cats before and after experimental infection with D. immitis. FTSZ was recognized in Western blots by sera from both positive and negative cats and from both uninfected and experimentally infected cats. WSP was recognized only by sera from positive cats and from cats experimentally infected with D. immitis; this protein was not recognized by sera from negative cats and from cats before experimental infection with D. immitis. The results of Western blot assays on WSP thus support the hypothesis that infection with filarial nematodes induces the production of antibodies against Wolbachia proteins.

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