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Keywords:

  • Haemonchus;
  • mucosal;
  • antigen;
  • CD4+ T lymphocytes;
  • mass spectrometry;
  • abomasum

SUMMARY

We sought to identify antigens from Haemonchus contortus, an abomasal nematode of small ruminants, that stimulate local (abomasal lymph node, ALN) CD4+ T lymphocyte responses during a primary infection. Results led to a focus on antigens from the parasite intestine. The H. contortus intestine proved to be a major source of antigens that stimulated ALN CD4+, CD25+ T lymphocyte responses during infections in lambs. When stimulated by intestinal antigens, ALN lymphocytes from these lambs expressed IL-4 and IL-13 transcripts, and, more variably, IFN-γ. An immunoaffinity-purified fraction, enriched for H. contortus apical intestinal membrane proteins, stimulated similar ALN responses. On further fractionation, antigens from six size classes (ranging from 30 to 200 kDa) also stimulated proliferation of ALN lymphocytes. Mass spectrometry analysis of these size classes identified several known apical intestinal membrane proteins from H. contortus. The results show that H. contortus intestinal antigens warrant investigation in strategies to induce mucosal immunity against this parasite. The specific proteins identified have value for this purpose. The results are in contrast with the now generalized idea that H. contortus intestinal antigens are ‘hidden’ from the host immune system, and this issue is discussed. The approach also has potential application to other gastrointestinal nematode parasites.