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Genome-wide profiling of humoral immunity and pathogen genes under selection identifies immune evasion tactics of Chlamydia trachomatis during ocular infection.

  • Author(s): Pickering, Harry;
  • Teng, Andy;
  • Faal, Nkoyo;
  • Joof, Hassan;
  • Makalo, Pateh;
  • Cassama, Eunice;
  • Nabicassa, Meno;
  • Last, Anna R;
  • Burr, Sarah E;
  • Rowland-Jones, Sarah L;
  • Thomson, Nicholas R;
  • Roberts, Chrissy H;
  • Mabey, David CW;
  • Bailey, Robin L;
  • Hayward, Richard D;
  • de la Maza, Luis M;
  • Holland, Martin J
  • et al.

The frequency and duration of Chlamydia trachomatis (Ct) ocular infections decrease with age, suggesting development of partial immunity. However, there is a lack of clear correlates of immunity to Ct infection in humans. We screened sera from a cohort of Gambian children followed for six-months against a Ct-proteome microarray. At genome sequence level, we detected signatures of selection from a population of ocular Ct isolates from Guinea-Bissau. Together these approaches allowed us to highlight the focus of humoral responses and hypothesise new modes of pathogen immune evasion. Children who were susceptible to frequent and/or prolonged Ct infection had a less focussed antibody response, including preferential recognition of forty-two antigens. There was evidence of positive and purifying selection across the genome, but little balancing selection. In contrast, most antigens that were associated with susceptibility were under neutral selection. These data suggest an evasion strategy in which Ct presents a large panel of irrelevant antigens to the immune system to block or misdirect protective responses. Development of a focused immune response, possibly induced through vaccination, may be an effective strategy to promote protection to Ct infection.

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