A schistosome infection is initiated when the parasite penetrates the skin of a susceptible host. Relatively large quantities of protein are released by transforming cercariae compared to later larval stages. This represents the first parasite material to which the host's immune system is exposed, yet little is known about the proteins which are released during the first few hours post-transformation. We have shown that antiserum raised against such molecules was capable of imparting protection against a schistosome challenge infection upon passive transfer to naïve mice. By screening a cercarial cDNA library with this serum, 38 positive clones were identified. Sequence analysis showed these to represent 8 different molecules which included Schistosoma mansoni 21·7 kDa antigen, calcium-binding-protein and the vaccine candidate glutathione S-transferase (Sm28GST). In addition, 5 clones were isolated, 1 of which had significant homology to many cytochrome C proteins, another with leukocyte elastase inhibitors and 3 which represented novel molecules. Four clones were expressed in a prokaryotic high-level expression vector, sera produced against each purified recombinant protein and used subsequently to probe Western blots and parasite sections. The leukocyte elastase inhibitor homologue and 2 unknowns induced significant proliferation by lymph node cells recovered from mice vaccinated with irradiated cercariae. More strikingly, the 2 novel proteins stimulated very high levels of interferon γ (IFNγ) secretion both by lymph node cells and those recovered by broncho-alveolar lavage from the lungs of vaccinated mice. Such results will be discussed in the context of vaccine development.
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