Functional analysis of genes from parasitic helminths requires, at the present time, heterologous expression. We have adapted the well-characterized system of transfection in Leishmania protozoal parasites, as a means of analysing the effect of single filarial genes on the mammalian immune system. For example, testing the function of the Brugia malayi abundant larval transcript (ALT) gene-transfected Leishmania mexicana were found to be significantly more virulent in macrophages in vitro. The course of infection in vivo is also aggravated by expression of the ALT gene. Examples are also given of transgenes which reduced in vitro growth within macrophages, as well as others which exert no effect on the protozoal parasitism. Thus, Leishmania transfection provides a tractable system to analyse helminth gene function within the context of the host immune system.
- filarial nematode
- immune modulation