The immunomes of Ehrlichia chaffeensis and Ehrlichia canis have recently been revised to include immunodominant hypothetical proteins with conformational antibody epitopes. In this study, we examined 216 E. chaffeensis and 190 E. canis highly antigenic proteins according to ANTIGENpro and also performed a genome-wide hypothetical protein analysis (E. chaffeensis n=104; E. canis n=124) for immunoreactivity. Using cell-free protein expression and immunoanalysis, 118 E. chaffeensis and 39 E. canis proteins reacted with sera from naturally E. chaffeensis-infected patients or E. canis-infected dogs. Moreover, 22 E. chaffeensis and 18 E. canis proteins consistently and strongly reacted with a panel of patient or canine sera. A subset of E. chaffeensis (n=18) and E. canis (n=9) proteins were identified as immunodominant. Consistent with our previous study, most proteins were classified as hypothetical, and the antibody epitopes exhibited complete or partial conformation dependence. The majority (28/40, 70%) of E. chaffeensis and E. canis proteins contained transmembrane domains, and 19 (48%) were predicted to be secreted effectors. The antigenic repertoires of E. chaffeensis and E. canis were mostly diverse and suggest that the immunomes of these closely related ehrlichiae are dominated by species-specific conformational antibody epitopes. This study reveals a significant group of previously undefined E. chaffeensis and E. canis antigens and reaffirms the importance of conformation-dependent epitopes as targets of anti-Ehrlichia immune responses. These findings substantially expand our understanding of host-Ehrlichia immune responses, advance efforts to define the molecular features of protective proteins, and improve prospects for effective vaccines for the ehrlichioses.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases