Mechanism(s) of attenuation of Theileria annulata vaccine cell lines
Attenuated vaccines are an important means of controlling Theileria annulata infection of cattle. Production is by prolonged cultivation of macroschizont-infected cells. The mechanism of attenuation remains unclear. There are three general nonmutually exclusive possibilities: Selection of avirulent subpopulations, genome rearrangements and alterations in gene expression. Several groups, including ours, have provided evidence that the population structure usually tends to simplify during attenuation. Our data on the T. annulata (Ta) Ankara cell line show that attenuation is not necessarily accompanied by the population becoming clonal. We have been unable to detect large DNA rearrangements. Evidence for alterations in host and parasite gene expression during attenuation is available. With respect to the host we have shown that attenuation is accompanied by loss of expression of parasite induced matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). However, in different lines different protease activities are involved. In the T. annulata Ode line we have shown that 8 activities (including MMP9) are downregulated and that this correlates with a loss of metastatic behaviour. This has previously been shown in vitro using reconstituted basement membrane (Matrigel™) and is demonstrated in vivo using scid mice in this study. Thus part of the pathology, namely the ability to disseminate, mediated by host MMPs, is lost upon attenuation. Re-isolation experiments have shown that the reduction/loss of MMP is a stable transferable trait. A logical extension is that loss of MMP activity (and virulence in general) must be at the most fundamental level a genetic trait of the parasite. Evidence for loss of parasite gene expression is implied by the loss of the ability to differentiate into merozoites on attenuation. Specific evidence for loss of parasite gene expression has been obtained using differential RNA display. We view virulence as a multifactorial phenomenon involving interacting subpopulations of cells and attenuation is a threshold effect whereby the number of virulence factors is reduced below a critical level. On this basis there will be many different ways to achieve attenuation.
Document Type: Research Article
Affiliations: 1: Department of Biology, University of York, UK, 2: Centre for Tropical Veterinary Medicine, University of Edinburgh, UK, 3: Institute of Cell & Population Biology, University of Edinburgh UK 4: Ecole Nationale de Médecine Vétérinaire, Tunisia
Publication date: 1999-09-01