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Genetic manipulation of Neospora caninum to express the bradyzoite-specific protein NcSAG4 in tachyzoites



Neospora caninum is an apicomplexan parasite and the aetiological agent of bovine neosporosis, one of the main causes of reproductive failure worldwide. We have generated 2 independent transgenic knock-in clones, Nc-1SAG4c1.1 and Nc-1SAG4c2.1, that express the bradyzoite stage-specific protein NcSAG4 in the tachyzoite stage. These clones have similar growth rates in vitro as the wild-type (WT) strain Nc-1. Studies in a cerebral mouse model of infection revealed a slightly lower rate of detection of the transgenic strains in brains during the chronic phase of infection. However, a pregnant mouse model of infection revealed a reduction in the virulence of the Nc-1SAG4c1.1 strain despite the same tachyzoite expression of NcSAG4 and a similar anti-NcSAG4 response displayed by mice inoculated with Nc-1 SAG4c1.1 or Nc-1 SAG4c2.1 parasites. This behaviour may be related to the reduced ability of the Nc-1SAG4c1.1 parasites to invade host cells, which was observed in in vitro assays. The apparent reduction in persistence and the high growth rate of the transgenic strains, together with their constitutive expression of the protein NcSAG4, may be useful features for future immunoprophylaxis trials based on a safe live attenuated vaccine.


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