Changes in proteins during sporulation of Eimeria tenella oocysts were investigated. Unsporulated E. tenella oocysts collected from cecal tissue at 7 days postinoculation were sporulated in aerated media at 28 C for 0–48 hr. Gel analysis of soluble protein extracts prepared from oocysts from their respective time points indicated the presence of 2 prominent bands with relative molecular weight (Mr) in the range of 30 kDa and making up 20% of the total protein. These 2 bands, designated as major oocyst proteins (MOPs), were absent or barely detectable by 21 hr of sporulation. MOP bands were weakly reactive with glycoprotein stain but showed no mobility shift on deglycosylation. By gel analysis it was shown that the purified MOPs consisted of 2 bands of Mr 28.7 and 30.1 kDa. However, by matrix-assisted laser deabsorption–time of flight analysis it was shown that masses were about 17% lower. Internal sequence analysis of the 28.7-kDa protein generated 2 peptides of 17 and 14 amino acids in length, consistent with a recently described protein coded by the gam56 gene and expressed in E. maxima gametocytes. Rabbit antibodies made against MOPs were localized to outer portions of sporocysts before excystment and to the apical end of in vitro–derived sporozoites. These same antibodies were found to react with bands of Mr 101 and 65 kDa by Western blot but did not recognize MOPs in soluble or insoluble sporozoite extracts. The data suggest that the MOPs are derived from part of a gametocyte protein similar to that coded by gam56 and are processed during sporulation into sporocyst and sporozoite proteins. Alternatively, the binding of anti-MOP to 101- and 65-kDa proteins may result from alternatively spliced genes as the development of parasite proceeds.

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