A number of complex processes are involved in Eimeria spp. survival, including control of sporulation, intracellular invasion, evasion of host immune responses, successful reproduction, and nutrition. Proteases have been implicated in many of these processes, but the occurrence and functions of serine proteases have not been characterized. Bioinformatic analysis suggests that the Eimeria tenella genome contains several serine proteases that lack homology to trypsin. Using RT-PCR, a gene encoding a subtilisin-like and a rhomboid protease-like serine protease was shown to be developmentally regulated, both being poorly expressed in sporozoites (SZ) and merozoites (MZ). Casein substrate gel electrophoresis of oocyst extracts during sporulation demonstrated bands of proteolytic activity with relative molecular weights (Mr) of 18, 25, and 45 kDa that were eliminated by coincubation with serine protease inhibitors. A protease with Mr of 25 kDa was purified from extracts of unsporulated oocysts by a combination of affinity and anion exchange chromatography. Extracts of SZ contained only a single band of inhibitor-sensitive proteolytic activity at 25 kDa, while the pattern of proteases from extracts of MZ was similar to that of oocysts except for the occurrence of a 90 kDa protease, resistant to protease inhibitors. Excretory-secretory products (ESP) from MZ contained AEBSF (4-[2-Aminoethyl] benzenesulphonyl fluoride)–sensitive protease activity with a specific activity about 10 times greater than that observed in MZ extracts. No protease activity was observed in the ESP from SZ. Pretreatment of SZ with AEBSF significantly reduced SZ invasion and the release of the microneme protein, MIC2. The current results suggest that serine proteases are present in all the developmental stages examined.

You do not currently have access to this content.