Cellular and Humoral Immune Responses and Antigen Recognition in Sprague-Dawley Rats Experimentally Infected with Brucella abortus Biotype 1
The study was undertaken to investigate the cellular and humoral immune responses as well as antigen recognition in the acute and sub-acute stages of Brucella abortus biotype 1 infection in Sprague-Dawley (SD) rats. The SD rats were infected intraperitoneally with 1x1010 colony forming unit (cfu) of B. abortus biotype 1 Korean bovine isolate. The cellular and humoral immune responses were measured at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection against Crude Brucella Protein (CBP) by Lymphocyte Proliferation Assay (LPA) and Indirect Enzyme-linked Immunosorbent Assay (IELISA). The experimentally infected rats developed specific lymphoproliferative and humoral immune response within 1 week post infection. A significant increase in the proliferative response to CBP was recorded on day 28 post infection. Brucella abortus specific IgG responses were initiated in SD rats at 3 days after infection. The highest IgG antibody titers were recorded at 35 days after infection and then the titer gradually decreased until the end of the experiment. Recognition of immunodominant antigens in CBP of B. abortus was performed by Western Blot (WB) assay using infected rat sera collected at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection. Western blot assay of the sera using CBP antigens revealed a wide array of protein bands between molecular weight of 19 and 125 kDa. Proteins of 125, 105, 82, 66, 54, 46, 32, 24, 22, 21 and 19 kDa were frequently recognized by the sera of infected rats during the experiment. The 82, 46, 32, 24, 22, 21 and 19 kDa proteins were intensely recognized during the course of infection. These antigens should be considered useful for the diagnostic of B. abortus infection.
Brucella are Gram-negative, facultative intracellular bacteria which
cause disease in humans, domesticated animals and wild mammals (Nicoletti,
1980; Young, 1983). Undulant fever, chills, sweating,
anorexia, fatigue, weight loss, depression, arthralgia and myalgia are common
clinical manifestations in human brucellosis patients. It causes abortion, infertility,
stillbirth and retention of placenta in animals leading to huge economic losses
(Radostits et al., 2007). Humans are generally
infected through direct contact with infected animals or by the consumption
of the contaminated food especially unpasteurized milk and milk products (Nicoletti,
1992; Pappas et al., 2006). Brucellosis mainly
spread from one animal to another through contaminated materials during abortion,
using infected bull or semen during natural breeding or artificial insemination
(Lim et al., 2005).
Brucellosis remains endemic in many developing countries where it undermines
animal health and productivity (Trujillo et al.,
1994). At present, brucellosis is an emerging public and animal health problem
in many countries as well as Korea despite animal brucellosis control program.
The other most likely source of introduction of brucellosis in domesticated
animals is from free ranging wildlife (Davis and Elzer,
2002). Rats are known to harbor Brucella in many parts of the world
(Oliakova and Antoniuk, 1989) and found to be infected
with B. abortus on farm where cattle are infected (Moore
and Schnurrenberger, 1981). The control of brucellosis in animals as well
as humans could not be achieved without eradicating the disease in primary reservoir
hosts as well as free ranging wildlife (Davis and Elzer,
2002; Godfroid, 2002).
There are three clinical stages of brucellosis in humans according to the duration
of the disease: acute, sub-acute and chronic. Acute brucellosis persists less
than 8 weeks, duration of sub-acute stage is from 8 to 52 weeks and chronic
brucellosis is more than 52 weeks (Gotuzzo and Cellillo, 1998).
An acute phase of brucellosis can progress either to recovery or to a chronic
form. The diagnosis of brucellosis in domesticated animals is based on the detection
of antibodies against O polysaccharide of smooth Brucella sp., in the
sera by the routine serological tests. Antibodies against the O polysaccharide
of smooth Brucella are known to react with the closely related bacteria
which hamper accurate diagnosis of Brucella (Kittelberger
et al., 1998).
Antibody responses directed against proteins of Brucella is known to
specific for the genus Brucella (Diaz and Moriyon,
1989). Test detecting antibodies to the Brucella proteins are considered
specific (Cherwonogrodzky et al., 1990). Brucella
proteins elicit cell-and antibody-mediated immune responses which have been
investigated in animals and humans for diagnostic purpose. However, there is
no study concerning diagnosis of brucellosis in free ranging wildlife such as
rats using proteins of B. abortus. The aim of this study was to investigate
the cellular and humoral immune responses against Crude Brucella Protein
(CBP), during the acute and sub-acute stage of brucellosis in Sprague-Dawley
(SD) rats and to investigate the specific antigen recognitions.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Adult SD rats (n = 44) of 8 weeks old, were purchased from a commercial
laboratory animal company (Koatech, Korea). The rats were housed in cages and
provided with food and water ad libitum. The experimental protocol was
approved by the local ethic committee of the Chonbuk National University, Korea.
The animals were culture as well as seronegative for Brucella infection,
prior to experimental infection, as ascertained by routine bacteriological examination
of blood samples on brucella agar media (BBL, Becton, Dickinson and Company,
Sparks, MD, USA) incubated at 37°C for 7 days under 5% CO2 and
screening of sera by the Rose Bengal plate agglutination test (RBPT).
Brucella abortus biotype 1 Korean cattle isolate was used for the
experimental infection. Brucella abortus biotype 1 lyophilized stock
culture was obtained from the laboratory repository. Stock culture was revived
on brucella agar media (BBL, Becton, Dickinson and Company, Sparks, MD, USA)
by incubating at 37°C for 7 days under 5% CO2. The grown bacteria
were harvested in normal saline.
Forty rats were injected intraperitoneally with 0.1 mL sterile pyrogen free
solution containing 1x1010 cfu mL-1 of B. abortus
biotype 1. Four uninfected control rats were injected intraperitoneally with
0.1 mL sterile pyrogen free solution.
Rectal temperature, food and water intake as well as other abnormal clinical
signs of all infected and control rats were recorded daily for 2 weeks.
Preparation of Crude Brucella Protein Antigen
The CBP was prepared from B. abortus biotype 1 according to the previously
described methods (Onate et al., 2000) with modifications.
Briefly, B. abortus biotype 1 was inoculated onto brucella agar and incubated
at 37°C for 7 days under 5% CO2. The culture was harvested in
sterile Phosphate Buffered Saline (PBS) after 7 days of incubation. Bacteria
were washed three times with the sterile PBS at 8000 rpm for 10 min at 4°C.
Finally, it was resuspended in 50 mL of sterile PBS and inactivated by heating
at 60°C for 1 h. The inactivated culture were sonicated at melting ice temperature,
applying 6 cycles at 100 W, each cycle was of 1 min duration. The sonicated
cell lysate was centrifuged at 1200 g for 20 min at 4°C. The supernatant
was collected in 2 mL aliquots and stored at -20°C until tested. The protein
concentration of the antigen was measured by using Bradford kit (Bio-Rad, Hercules,
Lymphocyte Proliferation Assay
At 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection, four
rats from each group were euthanized and their spleens were removed under aseptic
condition. Single-cell suspensions were prepared from these spleens according
to a standard procedure (Onate et al., 2003).
Briefly, single cell suspensions were prepared from rat spleens by dispersion
of the tissue through a sterilized stainless steel. The spleen was meshed with
Roswell Park Memorial Institute Medium (RPMI). The meshed spleen was centrifuged
at 2000 rpm for 3 min. The supernatant was discarded. Lysis of the red blood
cells in the sedimented spleenocytes was performed by Tris-buffered ammonium
chloride (pH 7.2). After lysis of red blood cells the spleenocytes were centrifuged
at 2000 rpm for 3 min and supernatant was discarded. Finally, 10 mL of complete
RPMI-1640 media supplemented with 10% fetal calf serum, 2 mM L-glutamine, 100
IU mL-1 of penicillin, 100 μg mL-1 of streptomycin
and 2 μg mL-1 of fungizone were added in the spleenocytes suspension.
The concentration of the spleenocytes was adjusted in RPMI media at a concentration
of 2x105 viable cells mL-1.
The lymphocyte proliferation response was determined by the colorimetric Thiazolyl
Blue Tetrazolium Bromide (MTT) assay according to the method described by Mosmann
(1983), with modifications. Briefly, 100 μL of splenic cell suspension
was placed in triplicate (2x105 cells well-1) in 96-well
tissue culture plates with 50 μL of medium alone or medium containing CBP
(2 μg well-1) and Concanavalin A (ConA) 0.5 μg well-1.
The cultures were incubated at 37°C in a humidified 5% CO2 atmosphere
for 48 h, after which supernatant was removed by pipette. Then 50 μL of
the MTT [3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2, 5-diphenyl-tetrazolium bromide; Sigma]
was added to each well. The cells were further incubated at 37°C for 4 h
and then 100 μL of acid isopropanol (0.04 N HCl) was added to each well.
The absorbance was measured at the wavelength of 570 nm with a microplate Enzyme-Linked
Immunosorbant Assay (ELISA) reader (Tecan, Austria). Cellular proliferation
was expressed as mean Stimulation Index (SI), calculated by dividing the mean
Optical Density (OD) of the stimulated cultures by the mean OD of unstimulated
Rose Bengal Plate Test
Sera collected from SD rats at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120
days after infection were tested by RBPT using a commercial whole cell antigen
of B. abortus 1119-3 (Deasung Micrbiological Labs, Korea) according
to the previously described method (Alton et al., 1988).
Standard Tube Agglutination Test
Two-fold serial dilutions of sera collected at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35,
42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection were tested by Tube Agglutination Test
(TAT) using the whole cell antigen of B. abortus 1119-3 (National Veterinary
Research and Quarantine Service, Anyang, Korea) according to the method of Alton
et al. (1988). Reciprocal of the highest dilution of serum that showed
clearing of the suspension and formation of a distinct agglutination mat at
the bottom of the tube was expressed as the agglutination titer.
Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
The presence of serum total immunoglobulin G (IgG) was determined by an
indirect ELISA. The CBP was diluted to 10 μg mL-1 in 0.05 mM
sodium bicarbonate buffer (pH 9.6) and used to coat the wells (100 μL well-1)
of a flat-bottomed 96-well microtitre plate (Nunc, Denmark). Affinity purified
Rat IgG (Bethyl laboratories, Inc., USA) were used to coat the 96-well plate
starting from 500 to 7.8 ng well-1 for generation of standard curve.
After overnight incubation at 4°C, plates were washed three times with wash
solution (PBST: PBS pH 7.4) with 0.05% (V/V) Tween 20 and blocked with 1% Bovine
Serum Albumin (BSA) (Sigma Aldrich Inc., St. Louis, MO, USA) in PBS for 30 min
at 37°C. After three washes with PBST, 100 μL of control and test sera
samples, diluted 1:500 in sample diluent (50 mM tris, 0.14 M NaCl ,1% BSA, 0.05%
Tween 20, pH 8.0) were added to each well in duplicate. The plates were sealed
and incubated at 37°C for 1 h. After five washing cycles with PBST, each
well was incubated with 100 μL of 1: 100000 dilution of goat anti-rat IgG
antibodies conjugated to horseradish peroxidase (Bethyl laboratories Inc., USA)
diluted in conjugate diluent (50 mM tris, 0.14 M Nacl, 1% BSA, 0.05% Tween 20,
pH 8.0). After 1 h incubation at 37°C, plates were washed 5 times as described
above and the color reaction was developed by adding 200 μL well-1
of a solution containing 1.0 mg mL-1 of O-phenylenediamine dihydrochloride
(OPD; Sigma, St. Louis, USA) in 0.05 M citrate buffer (pH 4.0) with 0.04% H2O2.
After 30 min of incubation at room temperature, the enzyme reaction was stopped
by addition of 50 μL of 3 M sulfuric acid/well and the absorbance of the
developed color was measured at 492 nm, using an automatic ELISA plate reader
(Tecan, Austria). The standard curve describing the relation between the concentration
of standards and their absorbance value was generated and the concentration
of antibody for each sample was expressed as ng mL-1.
Western Blot Analysis
Sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis (SDS-PAGE) was
performed in a mini-gel system (Bio-Rad, USA) under reducing conditions as described
by Laemmli (1970). Briefly, the antigen was solubilized
in sample buffer and subjected to SDS-PAGE using 12% polyacrylamide gels and
analysed with Coomassie blue (2.5% brilliant blue in 50% methanol, 10% acetic
acid) staining. For Western blotting, electrophoresed antigen was transferred
to nitrocellulose membranes (0.45 um pore size, Bio-Rad, USA) at 100 V for 1
h under conditions essentially similar to that described by Towbin
et al. (1979). Unbound sites on the membrane were blocked with PBS
containing 0.2% Tween 20 at 4°C overnight. The blocking solution was poured
off and the membrane was washed with PBST (0.1% Tween 20 in PBS) three times.
The membrane was then reacted with sample serum diluted in PBS containing 0.05%
Tween 20 for 1 h at rt. After three times rinse with PBS containing 0.1% Tween
20 for 30 min, phosphatase-labeled affinity purified antibody rat IgG (KPL,
Europe) diluted in PBS at 1:1000 were reacted for 1 h at room temperature. After
3 times rinse as described above, the membrane were immersed in BCIP/NBT substrate
(KPL, Europe) and the reaction was developed in darkness at rt for 10-15 min
or until desired color is achieved. A last washing step was performed once with
distilled water. The membrane was allowed to dry in the air. The thoroughly
dried membrane was scanned for taking the image.
The data were analyzed for statistical significance using Students
two-tailed t-test. The p-value of <0.05 was considered to be significant.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSION
All of the rats inoculated with B. abortus biotype 1, developed lethargic,
anorectic and febrile conditions within 24 h. The uninfected control rats did
not manifest any of the abnormal clinical signs. The highest rectal temperature
was 38.30±0.152°C in the rats of inoculated group and 36.5±0.05°C
in the uninfected control group.
Cellular Immune Response
Sequential monitoring of lymphocytes responses to CBP revealed a progressive
increase of the SI in the infected rats. The antigen specific cellular response
increased from 7 days after infection with a SI of 3.25±0.25. This was
followed by a persistent rise in the lymphocyte response of infected rats, with
a peak SI of 6.5±0.28 at 28 days after infection, which were significantly
different from lymphocyte responses recorded in the control group. The proliferative
response showed a decrease on 60 and 90 days after infection followed by a second
one on 120 days after infection (p<0.05). The ConA mitogen as positive control
was able to induce T-cell proliferation in all cases (data not shown). The results
of cellular immune responses are presented in Fig. 1.
Sera collected from rats at 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after
infection were tested positive for B. abortus by the RBPT. On the other
hand, RBPT was negative for sera collected from rats at 0 and 3 days after infection.
proliferation assay in B. abotus biotype 1 infected SD rats at
0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection. Results
are expressed as the Mean±SD. Statistically significant difference
of stimuation index between uninfected control and infected rats at different
time points of infection are indicated by asterisks (*p<0.05 and **p<0.001)
TAT Antibody Titers
The data on TAT antibody responses of infected rats showed a remarkable
increase in antibody titers after experimental infection. The TAT antibody titers
at 7 days after infection was 125±25, but exhibited a five-fold increase
to 625±50 on 35 days after infection. The antibody titers began declining
until the end of the experiment. No antibody responses were noted in the control
group. The mean reciprocal serum antibody titers measured by TAT are presented
in Fig. 2.
ELISA Antibody Titers
In the infected rats, B. abortus specific IgG antibodies response
started at 3 days after infection (150.9±14.67 ng mL-1). The
IgG response rose significantly from 7 days after infection (509.26±26.07
ng mL-1). The highest serum IgG titer recorded at 35 days after infection
(1213.27±9.06 ng mL-1) then the antibody titers decreased
gradually until the end of the experiment. The results of IgG responses in the
sera of infected rats are presented in Fig. 3.
Western Blot Analysis
The transfer of B. abortus antigens separated by electrophoresis
onto a nitrocellulose gel revealed a large array of proteins with apparent molecular
weight between 19 and 125 kDa. Pre-infection sera reacted weakly with the 24,
22 and 21 kDa proteins. Three days after infection 105, 54, 32 and 19 kDa proteins
were recognized by the sera. At 7 days after infection, sera of the infected
rats recognized 82, 32 and 19 kDa proteins. At 14 days after infection bands
of 125, 46, 32 and 19 kDa protein were observed in the sera. Sera of 21 days
after infection reacted with 82, 46, 32 and 19 kDa proteins. Protein bands of
the 82, 46, 32 and 19 kDa reacted with sera collected after 28 days after infection.
Sera collected at 35 days after infection reacted with 125, 105, 82, 46 and
32 kDa proteins. Five protein bands at the molecular weight of 125, 105, 82,
46 and 32 kDa reacted with sera collected at 42 days after infection.
||Serum antibody titers in B. abortus biotype 1 infected
rats measured by TAT at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days
after infection. Results are expressed as the Mean±SD. Statistically
significant difference of antibody titers between uninfected control and
infected rats at different time points of infection are indicated by asterisks
(*p<0.05 and **p<0.001)
||Serum lgG antibody titers in the B. abortus biotype
1 infected rats mearsured by the indirect ELISA at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28,
35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection. Results are expressed as the
Mean±SD. Statistically significant difference of antibody titers
between uninfected control and infected rats at different time points of
infection are indicated by asterisks (*p<0.05 and **p<0.001)
Sera at 60 days after infection reacted with 82 and 19 kDa proteins. Protein
bands around 82, 66, 46 and 19 kDa molecular weight were observed in sera collected
at 90 days after infection. Sera collected at 120 days after infection reacted
with 46, 32 and 19 kDa proteins. The result of WB assay is shown in Fig.
A wide range of wildlife is known to be the reservoir of B. abortus. Domesticated livestock animals might get infected with B. abortus by contact with the infected wildlife. Control of brucellosis in wildlife is necessary for eradication of bovine brucellosis. The cellular and humoral immunity in Brucella infection has always been a matter of interest for the researchers. The current understanding of immune response and antigen recognition against B. abortus has been arisen from the studies either in mouse or cattle. However, very little systemic information seems to be available on the measurement of immune response and antigen recognition in free ranging wildlife. We measured the cellular and humoral immune responses as well as antigen recognition induced by a virulent B. abortus biotype 1 in SD rats.
In the present study, experimentally infected rats mounted a lymphoproliferative
and humoral response within one week after infection. We noticed lymphocyte
stimulation response before the development of antibodies. Kaneene
et al. (1979) using an extract of autoclaved B. abortus cells
as antigen found that experimentally infected cattle developed cellular responses
by 1 to 2 weeks post exposure and several days earlier than seroagglutinins
could be detected. A study in a naturally infected herd confirmed that lymphocyte
proliferative response preceded development of antibodies (Kaneene
et al., 1978).
This study demonstrates that intraperitoneal infection of rat with B. abortus
biotype 1 generates a strong specific humoral as well as T-cell responses.
The induction of T-cell immune responses following B. abortus infection
was evaluated by measuring T-cell-proliferative responses after in vitro
stimulation of splenic cells with CBP.
||Western blot analysis of the rats sera using lgG.M. protein
marker (kDa), lanes 1-11, corresponding to the sera collected at 0, 3, 7,
14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after infection with B. abortus
biotype 1, respectively
Data of the lymphocyte proliferation assay suggests an initial high T-cell-proliferative
response followed by a gradual decreased up to the end of the study. Onate
et al. (2000) used CBP for measuring cellular immune response in
mice and observed a higher lymphoproliferative response following single injection
of CBP in the footpads of mice. Cabrera et al. (2009)
measured lymphocyte proliferation response in B. abortus strain RB51
vaccinated mice by in vitro stimulation with CBP.
Using ELISA, several studies have been conducted to analyze the antibody response
against proteins of Brucella sp. (Letesson et
al., 1997). ELISA targeting selected cytoplasmic (Hemmen
et al., 1995), periplasmic (Rossetti et al.,
1996), or membrane (Cloeckaert et al., 1992;
Zygmunt et al., 1994) proteins has been described.
In the present study, IgG antibodies mediated humoral immune response against
B. abortus biotype 1 has been measured by an indirect ELISA using CBP
during the course of infection. We detected IgG antibodies response in the sera
of SD rats at 3 days after infection with B. abortus biotype 1. In cattle,
Beh (1973) recorded IgG antibodies responses at 7 days
after infection with B. abortus.
In acute brucellosis, serum IgG response initially becomes low but with the
progress of the infection the IgG antibody titers increase. In this study, the
serum IgG antibodies measured by ELISA showed maximal antibody titers at 35
days after infection. Then the antibody titers gradually decreased from 35 days
of infection to the end of the experiment. Similar pattern of IgG antibody responses
to B. abortus under experimental conditions have previously been documented
in BALB/c mice (High et al., 2007). On the contrary,
in cattle, the IgG antibodies responses against B. abortus reached the
peak value at 28 to 42 days after infection, after which they declined (Macmillan,
1990). The patterns of antibody responses recorded by the TAT in the sera
of infected rat in our experiment were similar to that of ELISA.
The Brucella cell envelope is a three-layered structure in which an
inner or cytoplasmic membrane, a periplasmic space and an outer membrane can
be differentiated (Cloeckaert et al., 1990).
In this study, we disrupted the B. abortus by sonication and cell free
crude extract was obtained by centrifugation. The crude extract contains outer
membrane, periplasmic as well as cytoplasmic proteins. We performed WB analysis
of sera collected at 0, 3, 7, 14, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60, 90 and 120 days after
infection using CBP to identify the immunoreactive antigens. WB assay has been
used to identify the immunoreactive proteins of Brucella sp., which could
be used as diagnostic antigens for animal or human brucellosis (Letesson
et al., 1997). Among the immunodominant Brucella antigens
identified by WB, some belong to the cell envelope and correspond to both major
Outer Membrane Proteins (OMPs) (25 to 27 kDa and 36 to 38 kDa) and minor OMPs
(10 kDa, 16.5 kDa, 19 kDa and 89 kDa) (Letesson et al.,
1997). In this study, IgG antibodies present in the sera were reacted with
protein bands at a molecular weight ranging between 19 and 125 kDa in WB assay.
Six protein bands of 82, 46, 24, 22, 21 and 19 kDa were intensively recognized
by almost all sera of infected rats. Protein bands of 125, 105, 66, 54 and 32
kDa were weakly recognized by the sera of the infected rats. The pattern of
recognition of immunodominant bands by the sera of infected rats was almost
similar between acute and sub-acute infections.
In this study, a few bands were weakly recognized by pre-infection sera collected
at 0 day after infection. Cross reaction and background binding were reported
especially when soluble antigens were used (Dubey et
al., 1996; Harkins et al., 1998; Nishikawa
et al., 2002; OHandley et al., 2002).
In the persent study, 105 kDa proteins were moderately recognized by sera collected
at 3, 35 and 42 days after infection. Proteins band of 82 kDa was intensely
recognized by sera collected at 7, 21, 28, 35, 42, 60 and 90 days after infection.
The 46 kDa protein band was intensely recognized by the infected rat sera from
14 days after infection until the end of the experiment. Intense protein band
of 19 kDa was identified by the sera collected at 21 days after infection and
persisted up to 120 days after infection. Sera collected at 14 days after infection
weakly recognized 125 kDa protein bands which were persisted until the end of
the experiment. The protein band of 32 kDa was weakly recognized by sera collected
at 7 days of infection and persisted until the end of the study.
Data of this study suggest that the anti-protein antibody responses were heterogeneous
among infected animals and that only a combination of selected Brucella proteins
could lead to a satisfactory diagnostic test (Limet et
al., 1993; Tabatabai and Hennager, 1994; Hemmen
et al., 1995). Based on frequency and intensity of recognition, the
82, 46, 32, 24, 22, 21 and 19 kDa proteins should be considered in rats as immuno-dominant
B. abortus antigens which could be useful for the diagnosis of B.
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