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ABSTRACT: It has been hypothesized that babesial sporozoites express specific antigens that induce protective immunologic responses in cattle. However, they remain uncharacterized, partly for lack of research on the sporozoite stage of Babesia spp. This field suffers from complete knowledge of parasite development in the tick salivary gland; limited amounts of sporozoites from ticks, and a lack of protocols for induction and purification of sporozoites. In this work, Boophilus microplus larvae infected with B. bigemina were fed on susceptible cattle. Nymphs were collected and macerates were separated by a Percoll density gradient. Microscopic analysis of Giemsa-stained smears showed a larger number of sporozoites from nymphs fed for 9 days. Percoll-purified sporozoites were observed in large numbers in groups or individually and free of tick cells. RT-PCR analysis of total RNA extracted from purified sporozoites indicated transcription of the rhoptry associate protein 1 (rap-1) genes: rap-1a, rap-b, rap-1c, as well as the heat shock protein 20 (hsp-20) gene. Purified sporozoites were cultured in vitro analyzed for RAP-1a expression using an immunocytochemistry assay. Erythrocyte-attached sporozoites reacted with a specific RAP-1a monoclonal antibody. This is the first report of Babesia bigemina sporozoite antigens. Moreover, purified sporozoites will allow the characterization of stage-specific antigens involved in immunologic protection.
INIFAP Instituto Nacional de Investigaciones Forestales Agricolas y PecuariasCiudad de México, The Federal District, Mexico