Approaches towards DNA vaccination against a skin ciliate parasite in fish

PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e48129. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0048129. Epub 2012 Nov 7.


Rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) were immunized with plasmid DNA vaccine constructs encoding selected antigens from the parasite Ichthyophthirius multifiliis. Two immobilization antigens (I-ags) and one cysteine protease were tested as genetic vaccine antigen candidates. Antigenicity was evaluated by immunostaining of transfected fish cells using I-ag specific mono- and polyclonal antibodies. I. multifiliis specific antibody production, regulation of immune-relevant genes and/or protection in terms of parasite burden or mortality was measured to evaluate the induced immune response in vaccinated fish. Apart from intramuscular injection, needle free injection and gene gun delivery were tested as alternative administration techniques. For the I-ags the complement protein fragment C3d and the termini of the viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus glyco(G)protein (VHSV G) were tested as opsonisation and cellular localisation mediators, respectively, while the full length viral G protein was tested as molecular adjuvant. Expression of I-ags in transfected fish cells was demonstrated for several constructs and by immunohistochemistry it was possible to detect expression of a secreted form of the Iag52B in the muscle cells of injected fish. Up-regulations of mRNA coding for IgM, MHC I, MHC II and TCR β, respectively, were observed in muscle tissue at the injection site in selected trials. In the spleen up-regulations were found for IFN-γ and IL-10. The highest up-regulations were seen following co-administration of I-ag and cysteine protease plasmid constructs. This correlated with a slight elevation of an I. multifiliis specific antibody response. However, in spite of detectable antigen expression and immune reactions, none of the tested vaccination strategies provided significant protection. This might suggest an insufficiency of DNA vaccination alone to trigger protective mechanisms against I. multifiliis or that other or additional parasite antigens are required for such a vaccine to be successful.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Antigens, Protozoan / biosynthesis
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology
  • Aquaculture
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Ciliophora Infections / immunology
  • Ciliophora Infections / prevention & control
  • Ciliophora Infections / veterinary*
  • Fish Diseases / immunology
  • Fish Diseases / prevention & control*
  • Gene Expression
  • HEK293 Cells
  • Humans
  • Hymenostomatida / genetics
  • Hymenostomatida / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / immunology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss / immunology*
  • Oncorhynchus mykiss / parasitology
  • Parasite Load
  • Skin Diseases, Parasitic / immunology
  • Skin Diseases, Parasitic / prevention & control
  • Skin Diseases, Parasitic / veterinary*
  • Spleen / immunology
  • Spleen / metabolism
  • Transfection
  • Vaccination
  • Vaccines, DNA / administration & dosage


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Vaccines, DNA

Grants and funding

This study was funded by the FP6 project IMAQUANIM funded by the EU-commision and by the Danish Fish Immunology Research Centre and Network The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.