Genotypic diversity, a survival strategy for the apicomplexan parasite Theileria parva

F. Katzer, D. Ngugi, Alan Walker, D. J. McKeever

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The tick-borne protozoan parasite Theileria parva causes East Coast fever (ECF), a severe lymphoproliferative disease of cattle that is a major constraint to the improvement of livestock in eastern, central and southern Africa. Studies in cattle experimentally infected with T parva have shown that the protective cytotoxic T lymphocyte (CTL) response is tightly focused, with individual animals recognizing only one or two dominant antigens, the identity of which varies with MHC class I phenotype. It is well known that cross-protection between T. parva stocks is limited, but precise evaluation of genetic diversity in field populations of the parasite has been hampered by a lack of molecular markers spanning the genome. A recently described panel of satellite markers has provided evidence for substantial genotypic diversity and recombination but does not provide cover for large segments of the genome. To address this deficiency, we undertook to identify additional polymorphic markers covering these regions and we report herein 42 newly identified PCR-RFLP markers distributed across the 4 T. parva chromosomes, as well as 19 new satellite markers for chromosomes 1 and 2. This brings the total number of available polymorphic markers to 141 for the 8.5 Mb genome. We have used these markers to characterise existing parasite stabilates and have also shown that passage of the parasite through naive cattle and ticks can lead to substantial changes of parasite populations in resulting stabilates. These markers have also been used to show that passage of mixed parasites through an immunised calf results in the removal of the immunising genotype from the parasite population produced by ticks fed on this animal. (C) 2009 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)236-243
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Feb 2010

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