Investigation of the molecular adjuvant potential of Trypanosoma congolense BiP/HSP70 using congopain as model antigen.
African animal trypanosomiasis is a major threat to African agriculture causing a loss estimated to 4.5 billion US$ per annum. Trypanosoma congolense is the major causative agent in African animal trypanosomiasis and is transmitted by tsetse flies of the Glossina spp. Congopain, a major cathepsin L-like cysteine peptidase in T. congolense is associated with trypanotolerance in N‘Dama cattle and is a target for an anti-disease vaccine. It is suggested that trypanotolerant cattle control the disease by antibody mediated neutralisation of congopain, and that immunisation of cattle against congopain can mimic trypanotolerance resulting in minimised disease pathology. Susceptible cattle immunised with recombinant catalytic domain of congopain, C2, produced high levels of anti-congopain IgG specific antibodies against congopain, maintained weight and exhibited less severe anaemia. However, there was no effect on the establishment of T. congolense infection and acute anaemia development in trypanosusceptible cattle. It has been suggested that failure of congopain to give full protection of the host may be due to poor presentation to the immune system by conventional adjuvants used in previous studies. The aim of the present study was to improve the presentation of the catalytic domain of congopain (C2) to the immune system, by linking it to the proposed molecular adjuvant, BiP, an ER localised HSP70. A further aim was to localise the domain(s) of BiP where the adjuvant properties reside. BiP consists of an ATPase domain (ATPD), a peptide binding domain (PBD) and a C-terminal domain (C-term). Consequently, BiP69, BiP69 lacking the C-terminal domain (BiP60), BiP coding fragments (ATPD, PBD and C-term) and the C2 coding sequence were amplified by PCR from either genomic T. congolense DNA or plasmid DNA. The PCR products were each sub-cloned into a pTZ57RT vector, and C2 cloned into a pET-28a expression vector. The BiP coding fragments were inserted into the recombinant pET-28a-C2 vector, resulting in pET-28a-BiP69-C2, pET-28a-BiP60-C2, pET-28a-ATPD-C2, pET-28a-PBD-C2 and pET-28a-C-term-C2 coding chimeras. The fusion proteins were expressed in an E. coli system as insoluble inclusion bodies at the expected sizes of 96 kDa (BiP69-C2), 88 kDa (BiP60-C2), 47 kDa (PBD-C2), 34 kDa (C-term-C2) and 27 kDa (C2). However, the ATPD-C2 fusion protein was expressed at a larger and smaller size in different attempts. Protein expression was confirmed by western blots using anti-BiP antibodies and anti-congopain N-terminal peptide antibodies. Recombinantly expressed peptide binding domain (PBD)-C2, C-terminus-C2, BiP69-C2, BiP60-C2 chimeras and a BiP69 fusion protein were purified and refolded by a Ni-NTA based one-step on-column refolding method. Bacterial proteins co-purifying with BiP69-C2 and BiP60-C2 chimeras were removed by incubation with 5 mM ATP in the dissociation buffer, but poor yields resulted in using these chimeras as non-pure proteins. Immunisation of Balb/c mice with the BiP69-C2 fusion protein chimera induced a higher antibody response to C2 compared to immunisation with the BiP69/C2 mixture or with C2 in Adjuphos/Quil A. BiP69-C2 and PBD-C2 chimeras and BiP69/C2 mixture induced a robust antibody response to BiP69, but no correlation could be made with the contribution to control of parasitemia and disease induced pathology. Mice immunised with BiP69-C2 and PBD-C2 chimeras showed a better booster effect of T. congolense infection with higher anti-C2 antibody stimulation compared to control groups. Immunisation did not change the establishment of T. congolense infection and anaemia development in most immunised groups. However, mice immunised with the BiP69/C2 mixture and with the PBD-C2 chimera produced anti-C2 antibodies possible contributing to clearing parasites 10 days and 16 days earlier respectively, than mice immunised with BiP69-C2, C-term-C2 and BiP60-C2 chimeras and PBS, C2 and C2 in Adjuphos/Quil A control groups and showed no clinical symptoms of the disease. There was no significant difference in percentage mice survival between BiP-C2 chimera immunised mice and control groups immunised with C2 alone or with a mixture of Adjuphos/Quil A or immunised with PBS. In the present study, it was shown that BiP69 has adjuvant effects when linked to C2 and that its peptide binding domain acts as an adjuvant. It is possible that the removal of the C-terminal domain reduced the adjuvant potency of the peptide binding domain suggesting a prominent role in the adjuvant effect of the BiP molecule. Finding the exact role of the C-terminal domain in the adjuvant effect of BiP would be of utmost interest, and would involve comparing anti-C2 antibody response produced by immunisation with C2 linked to the peptide binding domain with or without the C-terminal domain. Future work includes repeating this study in trypanosusceptible cattle to confirm these findings.