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Vet Microbiol. 2003 Feb 2;91(2-3):265-83.

Characterization of the functional domain of major surface protein 1a involved in adhesion of the rickettsia Anaplasma marginale to host cells.

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Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oklahoma State University, 250 McElroy Hall, 74078-2007, Stillwater, OK, USA.


The major surface protein (MSP) 1a of the genus type species Anaplasma marginale (Rickettsiales: Anaplasmataceae) has been shown to mediate adhesion, infection and transmission of the organism, as well as to contribute to protective immunity in cattle. MSP1a contains a variable number of tandemly repeated peptides in the amino-terminal region, while the remainder of the protein is highly conserved among isolates. The number of repeats varies among geographic isolates of A. marginale but is constant within an isolate and has been used as a stable genetic marker of isolate identity. Because the sequence of the tandem repeats is the most variable part of the protein among isolates, this region of the protein is most likely to be involved in adhesion to host cells, a prerequisite to infection. The purpose of this study was to characterize the organization and function of the MSP1a tandem repeats of A. marginale in adhesion to host cells. We demonstrated by use of recombinant mutant proteins that the tandemly repeated region of MSP1a was necessary and sufficient to mediate adhesion of MSP1a to tick cells and bovine erythrocytes. Synthetic peptides representing the predominant sequences of individual repeats were tested for their adhesive capacity for tick cell extract (TCE). Peptides containing acidic amino acids D or E at position 20 bound to TCE, while peptides with a G as the 20th amino acid were not adhesive to TCE. Antibodies produced in rabbits against a synthetic repeat peptide neutralized A. marginale infection of cultured tick cells, and the neutralization observed was similar to that effected by antibodies produced against the whole MSP1a recombinant protein. Analysis of tandemly repeated MSP1a peptides of several geographic isolates of A. marginale revealed a complex relationship between the msp1alpha genotype and the tick-transmissible phenotype of the isolate and suggested that both the sequence and conformation of the repeated peptides influenced the adhesive properties of MSP1a. These studies demonstrated that the tandemly repeated region of the protein mediates the adhesive function of MSP1a.

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