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Identification of the Feline Humoral Immune Response to Bartonella henselae Infection by Protein Microarray

Creative Commons 'BY' version 4.0 license


Bartonella henselae is the zoonotic agent of cat scratch disease and causes potentially fatal infections in immunocompromised patients. Understanding the complex interactions between the host's immune system and bacterial pathogens is central to the field of infectious diseases and to the development of effective diagnostics and vaccines.


We report the development of a microarray comprised of proteins expressed from 96% (1433/1493) of the predicted ORFs encoded by the genome of the zoonotic pathogen Bartonella henselae. The array was probed with a collection of 62 uninfected, 62 infected, and 8 “specific-pathogen free” naïve cat sera, to profile the antibody repertoire elicited during natural Bartonella henselae infection.


We found that 7.3% of the B. henselae proteins on the microarray were seroreactive and that seroreactivity was not evenly distributed between predicted protein function or subcellular localization. Membrane proteins were significantly most likely to be seroreactive, although only 23% of the membrane proteins were reactive. Conversely, we found that proteins involved in amino acid transport and metabolism were significantly underrepresented and did not contain any seroreactive antigens. Of all seroreactive antigens, 52 were differentially reactive with sera from infected cats, and 53 were equally reactive with sera from infected and uninfected cats. Thirteen of the seroreactive antigens were found to be differentially seroreactive between B. henselae type I and type II. Based on these results, we developed a classifier algorithm that was capable of accurately discerning 93% of the infected animals using the microarray platform. The seroreactivity and diagnostic potential of these antigens was then validated on an immunostrip platform, which correctly identified 98% of the infected cats. Our protein microarray platform provides a high-throughput, comprehensive analysis of the feline humoral immune response to natural infection with the alpha-proteobacterium B. henselae at an antigen-specific, sera-specific, and genome-wide level. Furthermore, these results provide novel insight and utility in diagnostics, vaccine development, and understanding of host-pathogen interaction.

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