In the present study, we investigate the immunoprotective properties of trypomastigote excretory-secretory Ag (ESA) in experimental models. In the case of BALB/c mice, the immunization with ESA resulted in the reduction of parasitemia during acute infection and a significant level of protection in terms of mortality with more than 60% survival, whereas none of the mice in the control groups survived after 39 days postinfection. The same experiments performed in Fischer rats showed a high degree of protection against acute lethal infection with 100% survival, whereas 20 to 40% of rats in the control groups survived the acute phase of T. cruzi infection. Mouse and rat immune sera presented trypanolytic activity against Trypanosoma cruzi infective forms, and recognized two major parasite components of 85 and 24 kDa. The analysis of specific isotype profiles showed a predominance of IgG1, IgG2a, and IgG2b antibody responses. Rat antisera to ESA were then used to screen a trypomastigote cDNA library. Several clones were identified, all of which encoded for the 24-kDa protein. Using a mAb (Tcr7) produced against the native protein, the 31-kDa recombinant fusion protein was purified by affinity chromatography. The antisera to the recombinant protein used in IFA and immunoelectron microscopy showed that the localization of the 24-kDa protein differs among T. cruzi developmental stages. Protection experiments were performed in BALB/c mice using two synthetic peptides (20-40 and 109-124) derived from the primary sequence of the 24-kDa polypeptide. The results obtained clearly indicated that the peptide 109 to 124 containing a putative T cell epitope represents the most protective epitope, which induced 30 to 50% of protection against mortality during acute infection, whereas the percent survival in the control groups (OVA and 20-40 OVA peptide-immunized mice) was around 16%. Moreover, analysis of T cell proliferation in response to OVA-coupled peptides clearly indicated that only the 109 to 124 peptide had the capacity to induce the proliferation of T cells from peptide-immunized mice. Interestingly, only the 109 to 124-coupled peptide induced the proliferation of T cells from T. cruzi-infected mice.

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