Physical or psychological stressors are known to have significant consequences for immune function and the outcome of disease in human and animal models. In mice, cold water stress (CWS) has been shown to delay control of acute infection and reactivation of latent infections. Increased levels of parasite-specific IgG and IgM antibodies are observed when CWS is applied in the chronic phase. The present study examined the effects of a physical stressor, CWS, on tachyzoites antigens of Toxoplasma gondii, with particular emphasis on a low molecular weight antigen, 5 kDa, which seems to be recognized by antibodies from mice subjected to CWS in the chronic phase. This antigen is not recognized by antibodies from infected mice not subjected to CWS. Sera obtained from stressed and infected (CWS + INF) mice subjected to CWS during the chronic phase (CWS + INF + CWS) were used to harvest anti–5-kDa antibodies for immunolocalization studies. Tachyzoite lysate preparations were electrophoretically separated and transferred to nitrocellulose membranes. Strips of nitrocellulose containing tachyzoite antigens in the 4–10-kDa range were used to select for anti–5-kDa antibodies. Harvested anti–5-kDa localized this antigen on the surface of tachyzoites. This antigen was not present in bradyzoite preparations. Treatment with phosphatidylinositol-specific phospholipase C showed this antigen was not anchored to the cell membrane through glycosyl-phosphatidylinositol. Strong antibody responses in stressed animals during the chronic phase are associated with parasite reactivation. The 5-kDa antigen constitutes a unique immunogenic component of T. gondii, with significant diagnostic potential for identifying reactivation of latent infections.

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