Wolbachia endosymbionts of Onchocerca volvulus express a putative periplasmic HtrA-type serine protease

Abbas Jolodar, Peter Fischer, Dietrich W. Büttner, Norbert W. Brattig

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11 Scopus citations


Wolbachia are intracellular bacteria of many filarial nematodes. A mutualistic interaction between the endobacteria and the filarial host is likely, because the clearance of Wolbachia by tetracycline leads to the obstruction of embryogenesis and larval development. Databases were searched for exported molecules to identify candidates involved in this mutualism. Fragments of a Wolbachia serine protease from the human filarial parasite Onchocerca volvulus were obtained (Wol-Ov-HtrA) by the use of a PCR technique and primers based on the Rickettsia prowazekii genome. The deduced amino acid sequence exhibited 87% and 81% identity to the homologous Wolbachia proteases identified from Brugia malayi and Drosophila melanogaster, respectively. The full-length cDNA encodes 494 amino acids with a calculated mass of 54 kDa. Three characteristic features, (i) a catalytic triad of serine proteases, (ii) two PDZ domains and (iii) a putative signal peptide, classify the endobacterial protein as a member of the periplasmic HtrA family of proteases known to express chaperone and regulator activity of apoptosis. Using a rabbit antiserum raised against a recombinantly expressed 33-kDa fragment of Wol-Ov-HtrA, strong labelling of the antigen was found associated with endobacteria in hypodermis, oocytes, zygotes, all embryonic stages and microfilariae of O. volvulus. Staining of hypodermal cytoplasm surrounding the endobacteria indicated a possible release of the protein from the Wolbachia. The demonstration of Wol-Ov-HtrA-reactive IgG1 antibodies in sera of O. volvulus-infected persons indicated the exposure to the protein and its recognition by the human immune system. Wol-Ov-HtrA is a candidate for an exported Wolbachia protein that may interact with the filarial host metabolism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)141-149
Number of pages9
JournalMicrobes and Infection
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2004


  • Endobacteria
  • Filaria
  • High-temperature requirement A protease
  • HtrA
  • HtrA protease
  • Immunolocalisation
  • ORF
  • Onchocerca volvulus
  • PCR
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Serine protease
  • WSP
  • Wol-Ov-HtrA
  • Wolbachia
  • Wolbachia surface protein
  • Wolbachia-O. volvulus HtrA


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