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Parasite. 2008 Sep;15(3):266-74.

Trophozoites of Entamoeba histolytica epigenetically silenced in several genes are virulence-attenuated.

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Dept of Biological Chemistry, Weizmann Institute of Science, Rehovot, 76100, Israel.


The human intestinal parasite Entamoeba histolytica causes amoebic colitis and amoebic liver abscesses. Three classes of amoebic molecules have been identified as the major virulence factors, the Gal/GalNAc inhibitable lectin that mediates adherence to mammalian cells, the amoebapores which cause the formation of membrane ion channels in the target cells and the cysteine proteinases which degrade the matrix proteins, the intestinal mucus and secretory IgA. Transcriptional silencing of the amoebapore (Ehapa) gene occurred after transfection of trophozoites with a plasmid containing a segment of the 5' upstream region of the gene. Transcriptional silencing of the Ehap-a gene continued even after the removal of the plasmid and the cloned amoebae were termed G3. Transfection of G3 trophozoites with a plasmid construct containing the cysteine proteinase (EhCP-5) gene and the light subunit of the Gal- lectin (Ehlgl1) gene, each under the 5' upstream sequences of the amoebapore gene, caused the simultaneous epigenetic silencing of expression of these two genes. The resulting trophozoites, termed RB-9, were cured from the plasmid and they do not express the three types of virulent genes. The RB9 amoeba are virulence attenuated and are incapable of killing mammalian cells, they can not induce the formation of liver abscesses and they do not cause ulcerations in the cecum of experimental animals. The gene-silenced amoebae express the same surface antigens which are present in virulent strains and following intra peritoneal inoculation of live trophozoites into hamsters they evoked a protective immune response. Further studies are needed to find out if RB-9 trophozoites could be used for vaccination against amoebaisis.

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