Analysis of human immunoglobulin-degrading cysteine proteinases of Trichomonas vaginalis

D. Provenzano, J. F. Alderete

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

97 Scopus citations


Trichomonas vaginalis is a protozoan parasite that causes a widely distributed sexually transmitted disease (STD). Since immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibodies to specific trichomonad immunogens are found in serum and vaginal washes (VWs) from patients with trichomoniasis, a potential mechanism of immune evasion by this parasite might be the ability of T. vaginalis proteinases to degrade human immunoglobulins (Igs). Incubation of human IgG with lysates of T. vaginalis organisms resulted in time- and concentration- dependent degradation of the heavy chain. Secretory IgA was degraded similarly. Inhibitors of cysteine proteinases, when added to trichomonal lysates, abolished IgG and IgA degradation, while EDTA, a metalloproteinase inhibitor, did not. Substrate-gel electrophoresis with human IgG, IgM, or IgA copolymerized with acrylamide revealed several distinct cysteine proteinases in both lysates and culture supernatants from logarithmically growing parasites that degraded all classes of human antibodies. Trichomonal lysates and supernatants of numerous isolates tested all had Ig-degrading activity. Finally, proteolytic activity against IgG was detected in most (26 of 33; 78%) VWs from patients with trichomoniasis. In contrast, 18 of 28 (65%) VWs from women without trichomoniasis or from patients infected with other STDs had no detectable proteinases when tested in an identical manner. The other 10 of these 28 VWs (35%) had smaller amounts of detectable Ig-degrading proteinases. These differences in Ig-degrading proteinase activity between patients with and without trichomoniasis, regardless of coinfecting STDs, were statistically significant (P = 0.001). These results illustrate that T. vaginalis is capable of degrading human Igs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)3388-3395
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number9
StatePublished - 1995
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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