Antigenic diversity in Eimeria maxima and the influence of host genetics and immunization schedule on cross-protective immunity.
Smith AL., Hesketh P., Archer A., Shirley MW.
Eimeria spp. are a group of highly successful intracellular protozoan parasites that develop within enterocytes. Eimeria maxima from the chicken is characterized by high immunogenicity (a small priming infection gives complete immunity to subsequent homologous challenge) and naturally occurring antigenically variant populations that do not completely cross-protect. In this study we examined the expression of antigenic diversity in E. maxima, as manifested by cross-strain protection in a series of inbred chicken lines. The IAH line of Light Sussex chickens and all lines of inbred White Leghorns were susceptible to primary infections with either of two strains (H and W) of E. maxima and were protected completely against challenge with the homologous strain of parasite. The extent of cross-protection against the heterologous parasite strain varied from 0 to almost 100% depending on host genetics. Interestingly, in one inbred line of chickens (line 15I) the cross-protective phenotype was directional and intensely influenced by the infection history of the host. The basis for the observed variation in cross-protection is not known, but our results suggest that the major histocompatibility complex is not a major genetic component of the phenotype. These results are discussed in relation to the number of protective antigens presented by complex pathogens and the development of immunoprotective responses in hosts of different genetic backgrounds.