Of increasing importance to the medical and veterinary communities is the zoonotic filarioid nematode Onchocerca lupi. Onchocercosis, thus far found in wolves, dogs, cats and humans, is diagnosed via skin snips to detect microfilariae and surgical removal of adults from the eye of the host. These methods are time-consuming, laborious and invasive, highlighting the need for new tools for the diagnosis of O. lupi in susceptible hosts. Symptoms related to the presence of the adults in the eye can range from none apparent to severe, including blindness. No reliable chemotherapeutic protocols are available, as yet, to eliminate the infection. Paramyosin, an invertebrate-specific protein, has been well-studied as an allergen, diagnostic marker and vaccine candidate. The aim of this study, therefore, was to isolate and characterise paramyosin from O. lupi to assess its suitability for the development of a serological diagnostic assay.
The adult and microfilarial stages of O. lupi were isolated from the eyes and skin of a 3-year-old male dog. Total RNA was extracted and reverse transcribed into single stranded cDNA. Reverse-transcription PCR was used to isolate a full-length paramyosin cDNA from adult worms and to investigate the temporal expression patterns of this gene. All amplicons were sequenced using dideoxy chain termination sequencing. Bioinformatics was used to predict the amino acid sequence of the gene, to compare the DNA and protein sequences with those available in public databases and to investigate the phylogenetic relationship of all molecules. Antibody binding sites were predicted using bioinformatics and mapped along with published antigenic epitopes against the O. lupi paramyosin protein. The native protein, and three smaller recombinantly expressed peptides, were subjected to western blot using serum from dogs both positive and negative for O. lupi.
Paramyosin of O. lupi was herein molecularly characterized, encoded by a transcript of 2,643 bp and producing a protein of 881 amino acids (101.24 kDa). The paramyosin transcript was detected, by reverse transcription PCR, in adults and microfilariae, but not in eggs. Phylogenetic analysis indicates that this molecule clusters with paramyosins from other filarioids to the exclusion of those from other taxa. A total of 621 unique antibody binding epitopes were predicted for this protein and another 28 were conserved in other organisms. This information was used to design three peptides, for recombinant expression, to identify the antibody binding epitope(s) and reduce potential cross-reactivity with serum from dogs infected with other filarioid nematodes. Native paramyosin, purified from microfilariae and adults, was detected by antibodies present in serum from dogs with known O. lupi infections.
Data provided herein may assist in the development of a serological diagnostic test, based on antibodies to O. lupi paramyosin, for the diagnosis of this infection, in order to gain more information on the real distribution of this little known filarioid of zoonotic concern.