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Appl Environ Microbiol. 2008 Jul;74(14):4336-45. doi: 10.1128/AEM.02131-07. Epub 2008 May 23.

Development of a denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography method for detection of protist parasites of metazoans.

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  • 1Skidaway Institute of Oceanography, 10 Ocean Science Circle, Savannah, GA 31411, USA.


Increasingly, diseases of marine organisms are recognized as significant biotic factors affecting ecosystem health. However, the responsible disease agents are often unknown and the discovery and description of novel parasites most often rely on morphological descriptions made by highly trained specialists. Here, we describe a new approach for parasite discovery, utilizing denaturing high-performance liquid chromatography (DHPLC) reverse-phase ion-pairing technology. Systematic investigations of major DHPLC variables, including temperature, gradient conditions, and target amplicon characteristics were conducted to develop a mechanistic understanding of DNA fragment separation by DHPLC. As a model system, 18S rRNA genes from the blue crab (Callinectes sapidus) and a parasitic dinoflagellate Hematodinium sp. were used. Binding of 18S rRNA gene PCR amplicons to the DNA separation column in the presence of triethylammonium acetate (TEAA) was inversely correlated with temperature and could be predicted based on the estimated DNA helicity of the PCR amplicon. Amplicons of up to 498 bp were resolved as single chromatographic peaks if they had high (>95%) DNA helicity. Amplicons that differed by as few as 2 bp could be resolved. Separation of 18S rRNA gene PCR amplicons was optimized by simultaneous manipulation of both temperature and solvent gradients. The optimal conditions included targeting regions of high DNA helicity (>95%), temperatures in the range of 57 to 63 degrees C, and a linear acetonitrile gradient from 13.75 to 17.5% acetonitrile in 0.1 M TEAA (55 to 70% buffer B) over a 9-min period. Under these conditions, amplicons from a variety of parasites and their hosts can be separated and detected by DHPLC.

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