Gene Duplication and Protein Evolution in Tick-Host Interactions
The argasid tick Ornithodoros moubata is distributed throughout South and East Africa and Madagascar, where it colonizes wild and domestic habitats and feeds on warthogs, domestic swine, and humans. This argasid transmits the spirochete Borrelia duttonii, causing East African tick-borne relapsing fever in humans, and the African swine fever virus, which causes a highly lethal haemorrhagic disease in pigs. Tick surveillance and the elimination of O. moubata from synanthropic environments (human dwellings and pigsties) would facilitate the control and prevention of these two diseases. Since direct surveillance methods are impractical in this context, the development of an indirect method for the detection of specific antibodies against tick salivary proteins in samples taken from animal or human hosts living in the area under study would provide a more convenient surveillance and diagnostic tool. Previous work has indicated that the 20A1 salivary antigen of O. moubata could be an optimal candidate for the development of a specific serological test and identified it as an orthologue of the Ornithodoros savignyi TSGP1 lipocalin. The objectives of the present work were to clone, sequence, and molecularly characterize the O. moubata TSGP1, as well as its production as a recombinant protein in order to assess its usefulness as a diagnostic antigen in an ELISA test for tick surveillance. Our results show that O. moubata TSGP1 (OmTSGP1) conserves the tertiary structure of lipocalins and contains the biogenic amine-binding motif. We also show that OmTSGP1 shares 65% sequence identity with the O. savignyi TSGP1, demonstrating that they represent orthologous proteins and suggesting they share identical function as biogenic amine scavengers. A recombinant form of OmTSGP1 was produced, showing 100% sensitivity and 99.4% specificity in an ELISA test for the detection of anti-O. moubata antibodies in pig sera. This recombinant antigen represents a promising epidemiological tool for O. moubata surveillance that may help to implement control measures against O. moubata-borne diseases.