Background: Patients with trichomoniasis have serum antibody to numerous T. vaginalis cysteine proteinases, indicating that the proteinases are expressed in vivo. It was important, therefore, to examine for the presence of soluble trichomonad proteinases and/or antibody to the proteinases in the vagina of infected women. Methods: Vaginal washes (VWs) from 20 women were examined for the presence of proteinases by electrophoresis using acrylamide copolymerised with gelatin as the indicator system. Antibody to proteinases in VWs was detected by an immunoprecipitation assay involving protein A-bearing Staphylococcus aureus first coated with anti-human immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody, which was then added to VWs. For VWs having soluble proteinases, the bacteria were used to determine whether immune complexes between antibody and proteinases were present. VWs without soluble proteinases were incubated with the anti-human IgG treated bacteria before adding to detergent extracts of T. vaginalis. Individual isolates from the patients examined in this study were also analysed by one- and two-dimensional electrophoresis for their proteinase content. Finally, VWs were from patients without any history of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) as well as from individuals having numerous other STDs, including yeast, group B streptococcus, chlamydia, and syphilis. Results: Approximately one-third of patients had soluble proteinases in the VWs; the remaining two-thirds (70%) of patients and normal women had no detectable proteinases in VWs. Half of the patients without soluble proteinases had IgG which, when bound to S. aureus, immunoprecipitated many proteinases from a detergent extract of T. vaginalis. All soluble proteinases and those precipitated from trichomonal extracts were inhibited by inhibitors of cysteine proteinases. Finally, patients having trichomoniasis in addition to numerous other STD agents, including yeast, group B streptococcus, chlamydia, and syphilis did not have soluble proteinases in VWs. Equally noteworthy, some patients with soluble proteinases in VWs did not have other detectable STD agents. Conclusions: Proteinases were detected in the vagina of some patients with trichomoniasis, and in most cases the proteinases were complexed with IgG, which was precipitated by S. aureus. Patients without soluble proteinases in VWs also had antibody specifically to trichomonad proteinases, again demonstrating both the expression and immunogenic nature of the proteinases in vivo. The absence of soluble proteinases in normal women and in patients having other STD agents as well as the presence of proteinases in VWs of patients without other detectable STD pathogens reinforced the idea that the proteinases were of T. vaginalis parasite origin. The findings of this study indicate that proteinases may be important to the T. vaginalis-host interrelationship.
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