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Parasitology. 2008 Apr;135(4):529-38. doi: 10.1017/S003118200700409X. Epub 2008 Jan 21.

The mitochondrial heat shock protein 60 (HSP60) is up-regulated in Onchocerca volvulus after the depletion of Wolbachia.

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Institute for Medical Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, University of Bonn, Sigmund-Freud-Strasse 25, D-53105 Bonn, Germany.


Wolbachia, a genus of endosymbiotic bacteria of filarial worms, represent novel targets for anti-filarial therapy. The efficacy of compounds against Wolbachia has been evaluated using antiserum raised against the 60 kDa heat shock protein (HSP60) which binds specifically to this protein in both Wolbachia and mitochondria. It has been shown that Wolbachia stains (using such specific probes) stronger than the mitochondria in untreated Onchocerca volvulus, whereas after the depletion of Wolbachia (with drugs) staining of the mitochondria is increased. Herein, immunogold electron microscopy showed that specific anti-HSP60 serum specifically labelled Wolbachia and filarial mitochondria, and that both have distinct localization patterns, thus allowing them to be differentiated. Immunohistochemistry of O. volvulus showed that HSP60 staining is increased in the mitochondria after Wolbachia depletion in the hypodermis, epithelia, muscles, oocytes, embryos, and developing spermatozoa. This could have been the result of the antiserum preferentially binding to the Wolbachia when they are present or due to increased expression of the protein in the absence of the bacteria. To address this, mRNA levels of filarial hsp60 in O. volvulus were measured. After the depletion of Wolbachia, the transcription of hsp60 was significantly greater (7.7 fold) compared with untreated worms. We hypothesize that the increased expression of HSP60 in the absence of Wolbachia is due to a disruption of the homeostasis of the endosymbiosis.

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