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Recombinant expression and enzymatic characterisation of Trypanosoma vivax cathepsin L-like protease (TviCATL) for single chain variable fragment antibody production.

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Humans and animals in sub-Saharan Africa are at risk of African trypanosomiasis (AT), caused by tsetse fly-transmitted protozoan blood parasites of the Trypanosoma genus. Animal African trypanosomiasis (AAT), or nagana, is caused by T. brucei, T. congolense and T. vivax and negatively impacts livestock farming and consequently the economy of the continent. Since AAT occurs in rural areas, affordable rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs) and drugs are required. Diagnostic tests focus on antibody detection; however, antigen detection is more favorable since anti-trypanosome antibodies persist in blood for years following recovery. Due to the parasite’s defense by antigenic variation, development of a vaccine is unlikely. Molecules that are essential for parasite survival, such as peptidases, are currently being targeted for diagnosis and chemotherapy. A cathepsin-L-like cysteine protease from T. vivax, TviCATL, is released by dying parasites in the host bloodstream and was shown to be a diagnostic target for detecting host antibodies. To achieve diagnosis of current infections, detection of TviCATL is being explored. The overall aim of this study was to enzymatically characterise TviCATL; and to study the interaction of antibodies against the TviCATL antigen which could be used as a chemotherapeutic drug for the diagnosis of T. vivax infections. The protease, TviCATL, was recombinantly expressed in E. coli using the pET-28a expression vector and purified using a nickel chelate affinity column. The resulting 47 kDa protein was identified using western blot and was shown to hydrolyse H-D-Ala-Leu-Lys-AMC and was inhibited by bestatin and E-64 and had optimal activity between pH 6.5 and 7.5. The crossreactivity between TviCATL and antibodies produced against other Trypanosoma spp cysteine proteases was evaluated in western blots, and results confirmed cross-reactivity. In addition, chicken anti-TviCATL antibodies were able to detect TviCATL in TviCATL-spiked bovine serum. The production of antibodies using the Nkuku® phage library was employed as an alternative to the animal-based antibody production and single-chain variable fragment (scFvs) antibodies were selected by panning against the TviCATL antigen. After four rounds of panning, TviCATL-scFvs binders were enriched and four clones gave the highest signal when evaluated using a monospecific ELISA. Due to the low values obtained, optimisation of panning is necessary for improved results. Optimisation of recombinant expression and purification of the identified scFvs for use in a sandwich ELISA were explored to this end. This study showed that TviCATL is a promising chemotherapeutic and diagnostic target for African animal trypanosomiasis.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg.