Identification of candidate transmission-blocking antigen genes in Theileria annulata and related vector-borne apicomplexan parasites

Laetitia Lempereur, Stephen D Larcombe, Zeeshan Durrani, Tulin Karagenc, Huseyn Bilgic, Serkan Bakirci, Selin Hacilarlioglu, Jane Kinnaird, Joanne Thompson, William Weir, Brian Shiels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Vector-borne apicomplexan parasites are a major cause of mortality and morbidity to humans and livestock globally. The most important disease syndromes caused by these parasites are malaria, babesiosis and theileriosis. Strategies for control often target parasite stages in the mammalian host that cause disease, but this can result in reservoir infections that promote pathogen transmission and generate economic loss. Optimal control strategies should protect against clinical disease, block transmission and be applicable across related genera of parasites. We have used bioinformatics and transcriptomics to screen for transmission-blocking candidate antigens in the tick- borne apicomplexan parasite, Theileria annulata.
A number of candidate antigen encoding genes were identified which included domains that are conserved across vector-borne Apicomplexa (Babesia, Plasmodium and Theileria), including the Pfs48/45 6-cys domain and a novel cysteine-rich domain Expression profiling confirmed that selected candidate genes are expressed by life cycle stages within infected ticks. Additionally, putative B cell epitopes were identified in the T. annulata genes encoding the 6-cys and cysteine rich domains, in a gene encoding a putative papain-family cysteine peptidase, with similarity to the Plasmodium SERA family, and the gene encoding the T. annulata major merozoite/piroplasm surface antigen, Tams1.
Candidate genes were identified that encode proteins with similarity to known transmission blocking candidates in related parasites, while one is a novel candidate conserved across vector-borne apicomplexans and has a potential role in the sexual phase of the life cycle. The results indicate that a ‘One Health’ approach could be utilised to develop a transmission-blocking strategy effective against vector-borne apicomplexan parasites of animals and humans.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Genomics
Publication statusPublished - 5 Jun 2017


  • Theileria annulata
  • Plasmodium
  • Babesia
  • bioinformatic screen
  • transmission-blocking vaccine
  • 6-Cys domain


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