Brugia malayi is a filarial nematode parasite that causes lymphatic filariasis, a disease that affects millions of people in the tropics. Sexual reproduction of filarial worms occurs within the lymphatic vessels of the human host and is crucial for transmission of the parasite to the mosquito vector. We have previously identified several B. malayi genes that exhibit apparent gender-specific expression. One of these had significant sequence similarity to the Ascaris suum embryo-associated fatty acid binding protein, As-p18. The full length cDNA for the B. malayi female-associated fatty acid binding protein (Bm-FAB-1) encodes a 17.8 kDa protein (excluding a signal peptide) with 70% sequence identity with mature As-p18 and significant similarity to Caenorhabditis elegans and mammalian fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs). Antibodies raised to Bm-FAB-1 bound to developing embryos within female worms, especially around early embryo cells and the surfaces of immature worms within eggs. Functional studies showed that recombinant Bm-FAB-1 binds to several long chain fatty acids including oleate, but not retinol. Taken together, these results demonstrate that Bm-FAB-1 is a member of an unusual nematode-specific, secreted lipid binding protein family. The existence of a novel class of lipid binding proteins in nematode embryos raises the possibility that drugs targeting these proteins could be developed with broad activity against nematode parasites of medical and veterinary importance.
- Fatty acid-binding protein