Genetic immunization elicits antigen-specific protective immune responses and decreases disease severity in Trypanosoma cruzi infection

Nisha Garg, Rick L. Tarleton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

105 Scopus citations


Immunity to Trypanosoma cruzi requires elicitation of humoral and cell-mediated immune responses to extracellular trypomastigotes and intracellular amastigotes. In this study, the effectiveness of the T. cruzi trans-sialidase family (ts) genes ASPs-1, ASP-2, and TSA-1 as genetic vaccines was assessed. Immunization of mice with plasmids encoding ASP-1, ASP-2, or TSA-1 elicited poor antigen-specific cytotoxic-T-lymphocyte (CTL) activity and T. cruzi-specific antibody responses. Codelivery of interleukin-12 and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor plasmids with antigen-encoding plasmids resulted in a substantial increase in CTL activity and antibody production and in increased resistance to T. cruzi infection. In pooled results from two to four experiments, 30 to 60% of mice immunized with antigen-encoding plasmids and 60 to 80% of mice immunized with antigen-encoding plasmids plus cytokine adjuvants survived a lethal challenge with T. cruzi. In comparison, 90% of control mice injected with empty plasmid DNA died during the acute phase of infection. However, the pool of three ts genes provided no greater protection than the most effective single gene (ASP-2) either with or without coadministration of cytokine plasmids. Importantly, the extent of tissue parasitism, inflammation, and associated tissue damage in skeletal muscles during the chronic phase of T. cruzi infection in mice immunized with antigen-encoding plasmids plus cytokine adjuvants was remarkably reduced compared to mice immunized with only cytokine adjuvants or empty plasmid DNA. These results identify new vaccine candidates and establish some of the methodologies that might be needed to develop effective vaccine-mediated control of T. cruzi infection. In addition, this work provides the first evidence that prophylactic genetic immunization can prevent the development of Chagas' disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)5547-5555
Number of pages9
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2002


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases

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