Cysteine proteinases have been implicated in the protection conferred by vaccination with detergent-soluble extracts of Haemonchus contortus. In the present study, antisera from sheep refractory to Haemonchus challenge following vaccination with a ‘proteinase-enriched’ Haemonchus gut membrane extract, were employed to screen a cDNA expression library of the adult parasite. This resulted in the isolation of 3 cDNAs (designated hmcp1, 4 and 6) encoding cathepsin B-like cysteine proteinases. Immunocytochemical studies specifically localized the products of these genes to the microvillar surface of the parasite's gut and RT–PCR experiments revealed that these were developmentally regulated, being expressed exclusively during the blood-feeding parasitic stages. In addition, a generic PCR approach was adopted in order to identify the predominant cysteine proteinases in a UK strain of Haemonchus. A panel of 5 cDNAs, including hmcp1 and 4, was amplified in this way. Genomic Southern blot analysis indicated that some of these enzymes were encoded by single-copy genes, whereas others were encoded by multi-copy genes. Subsequent sequence analysis revealed that the proteases identified in this study were distinct from those previously reported in USA strains of the parasite.
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