This proposal will investigate virulence mechanisms of cytoadherence/sequestration using Babesia bovis as a natural host model system. Virulent B. bovis infection is associated with development of severe clinical disease and neurological manifestations similar to those observed in human patients with severe malaria caused by virulent strains of P. falciparum. The proposed unique model enables in vivo study of virulence mechanisms using defined and reproducible virulence phenotypes. In this model, the role of cytoadhesion/sequestration in determining virulence and whether specific gene products mediate these phenotypes can be determined. Published and preliminary data from three virulent and derived attenuated B. bovis pairs strongly supports the role of VESA1 proteins in virulence, and the overall hypothesis that differential VESA1 protein expression alone may be responsible for mediating virulence. Clonal lines of virulent and attenuated strain pairs will be used and their differential phenotypes confirmed. The specific VESA1 surface protein dimer associated with sequestration and expressed by virulent versus attenuated strains both in vitro and in vivo will be identified using monoclonal antibodies. Direct demonstration that a specific VESA1 dimer is associated with sequestration and virulence will be determined by complementation and expression of cytoadhesion and virulence associated ves1 gene(s) in the attenuated T2Bo clonal line, followed by an in vivo study to demonstrate acquisition of the virulence phenotype. If the hypothesis is correct, and if similar mechanisms are used in other pathogens, molecular targets for intervention to prevent severe clinical manifestations and death associated with hemoparasite infection can be further examined. Future directions will be to determine specific domain(s) of VESA1 proteins required for virulence, determine whether these domains are present in other VESA1 proteins and if so whether these proteins are also associated with virulence. Once this is established, the design and testing of virulence directed interventions such as peptide analogues or vaccines to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with hemoparasite infection in animals and humans will be possible.

Public Health Relevance

By expanding our understanding of mechanisms used by pathogens to cause disease (virulence mechanisms), advances in targeted therapeutics and vaccines to significantly reduce morbidity and mortality will be made. For blood-borne parasites such as malaria and babesiosis, both of which contribute very significantly to the global health burden in resource poor countries, cytoadherence is a virulence mechanism which leads to severe clinical signs associated with increased mortality. This project will use Babesia bovis infection of cattle as a natural animal model of cytoadherence and virulence, and will address a significant knowledge gap to demonstrate the causal relationship of specific parasite derived gene products to virulence.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Office of The Director, National Institutes of Health (OD)
Research Scientist Development Award - Research & Training (K01)
Project #
Application #
Study Section
National Center for Research Resources Initial Review Group (RIRG)
Program Officer
Contreras, Miguel A
Project Start
Project End
Budget Start
Budget End
Support Year
Fiscal Year
Total Cost
Indirect Cost
Washington State University
Veterinary Sciences
Schools of Veterinary Medicine
United States
Zip Code
Sondgeroth, Kerry S; McElwain, Terry F; Ueti, Massaro W et al. (2014) Tick passage results in enhanced attenuation of Babesia bovis. Infect Immun 82:4426-34
Sondgeroth, Kerry S; McElwain, Terry F; Allen, Andrew J et al. (2013) Loss of neurovirulence is associated with reduction of cerebral capillary sequestration during acute Babesia bovis infection. Parasit Vectors 6:181
Pedroni, Monica J; Sondgeroth, Kerry S; Gallego-Lopez, Gina M et al. (2013) Comparative transcriptome analysis of geographically distinct virulent and attenuated Babesia bovis strains reveals similar gene expression changes through attenuation. BMC Genomics 14:763
Suarez, Carlos E; Laughery, Jacob M; Schneider, David A et al. (2012) Acute and persistent infection by a transfected Mo7 strain of Babesia bovis. Mol Biochem Parasitol 185:52-7