Towards delineating functions within the fasciola secreted cathepsin L protease family by integrating in vivo based sub-proteomics and phylogenetics

R. M. Morphew, H. A. Wright, E. James LaCourse, J. Porter, J. Barrett, Debra J. Woods, P. M. Brophy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Citations (Scopus)
177 Downloads (Pure)


Fasciola hepatica, along with Fasciola gigantica, is the causative agent of fasciolosis, a foodborne zoonotic disease affecting grazing animals and humans worldwide. Pathology is directly related to the release of parasite proteins that facilitate establishment within the host. The dominant components of these excretory-secretory (ES) products are also the most promising vaccine candidates, the cathepsin L (Cat L) protease family.

Methodology/Principal Findings: The sub-proteome of Cat L proteases from adult F. hepatica ES products derived from in vitro culture and in vivo from ovine host bile were compared by 2-DE. The individual Cat L proteases were identified by tandem mass spectrometry with the support of an in-house translated liver fluke EST database. The study reveals plasticity within the CL1 clade of Cat L proteases; highlighted by the identification of a novel isoform and CL1 sub-clade, resulting in a new Cat L phylogenetic analysis including representatives from other adult Cat L phylogenetic clades. Additionally, for the first time, mass spectrometry was shown to be sufficiently sensitive to reveal single amino acid polymorphisms in a resolved 2-DE protein spot derived from pooled population samples.

Conclusions/Significance: We have investigated the sub-proteome at the population level of a vaccine target family using the Cat L proteases from F. hepatica as a case study. We have confirmed that F. hepatica exhibits more plasticity in the expression of the secreted CL1 clade of Cat L proteases at the protein level than previously realised. We recommend that superfamily based vaccine discovery programmes should screen parasite populations from different host populations and, if required, different host species via sub-proteomic assay in order to confirm the relative expression at the protein level prior to the vaccine development phase.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere-937
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 04 Jan 2011


  • Animals
  • Bile/parasitology
  • Cathepsin L/genetics
  • Electrophoresis, Gel, Two-Dimensional
  • Fasciola hepatica/enzymology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Goats
  • Phylogeny
  • Proteomics


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