DNA probes were developed for the detection and identification of 2 microsporidian parasites of marine fishes,
Microgemma caulleryi (infecting the liver of the greater sand-eel, Hyperoplus lanceolatus) and Tetramicra brevifilum
(infecting muscle, intestine and liver of the turbot, Scophthalmus maximus, a commercially important species). The probe-development procedure used is fast and straightforward, and readily applicable to the development of probes for other
microsporidian species. First, genomic DNA of microsporidian spores was isolated and digested with the restriction
enzyme Hind III. The fragments obtained were ligated into the vector pBluescript SK(+) and cloned in Escherichia coli.
Appropriate inserts were identified and then amplified by PCR, using primers specific for regions adjacent to the Hind III
restriction site in the vector sequence (and thus avoiding the need to develop primers specific for the inserts themselves).
The copies were labelled with digoxigenin, for subsequent use as probes, during PCR itself. The specificity of candidate
probes was tested in dot–blot hybridization assays, with the target DNA being (a) genomic DNA of the microsporidian
from which the probe had been obtained, or of another species, (b) the corresponding genomic DNA in the phagemid,
or (c) DNA from the corresponding host tissue. These assays identified a ca 1180 bp probe for M. caulleryi, denominated
C38, and a ca 1363 bp probe for T. brevifilum, denominated F9. Similar assays designed to assess sensitivity indicated
that F9 showed detectable binding to as little as 500 ng of T. brevifilum genomic DNA, and C38 to as little as 125 ng of
M. caulleryi DNA; these results were obtained with detection of DIG by enzyme immunoassay (i.e. using a phosphatase-coupled anti-DIG antibody), and could no doubt be improved if a radioactive labelling and detection system were used.
The probes developed in this study will greatly facilitate detection and identification of M. caulleryi and T. brevifilum in
fish tissues, and may prove useful for identifying possible intermediate hosts used by these species.