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Vet Parasitol. 2010 May 11;169(3-4):279-88. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2010.01.009. Epub 2010 Jan 20.

Sequence heterogeneity in the gene encoding the rhoptry-associated protein-1 (RAP-1) of Babesia caballi isolates from South Africa.

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Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, South Africa.


A competitive-inhibition enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (cELISA) developed for the detection of antibody specific for Babesia caballi was used to test sera collected from 1237 South African horses. None of these samples tested positive using the cELISA, although 63 samples tested positive for B. caballi antibody using the indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT). We therefore characterized the rap-1 gene that codes for the antigen (rhoptry-associated protein, RAP-1) used in the cELISA, from South African B. caballi isolates. Three sets of primers were designed to amplify the complete gene and flanking regions (approximately 1800 bp), but only one set of primers yielded PCR products, and we were only able to amplify a region at the 5' end of the gene (615 bp) from ten South African B. caballiin vitro-cultured isolates. Sequence data from seven of these were obtained. The sequences showed between 79% and 81% identity to B. caballirap-1 gene sequences that have been reported in the literature (accession numbers: AF092736 and AB017700). The GenomeWalker Universal kit (Clonetech) was used to amplify the regions flanking the 615bp B. caballirap-1 fragment from two South African isolates. Amplified products were cloned into the pGEM-T Easy vector and sequenced. The complete rap-1 gene sequence, comprising a single open reading frame of 1479 bp that encodes a protein consisting of 493 amino acids, was obtained from the two South African isolates. This sequence data was used to redesign the amplification primers and rap-1 homologues were obtained from a further eight isolates. BLASTP analysis indicated an amino acid identity of between 57.9% and 65.1% to the two RAP-1 protein sequences, AF092736 and AB017700, with most differences occurring at the carboxy-terminus. The amino acid sequence differences probably explain why it was not possible to detect B. caballi antibody in IFAT positive sera from South Africa using the cELISA. Redesigning the current cELISA using a conserved epitope of the RAP-1 antigen, or a more conserved protein as the target antigen, may overcome this problem.

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