Bma-LAD-2, an Intestinal Cell Adhesion Protein, as a Potential Therapeutic Target for Lymphatic Filariasis

Alexander F. Flynn, Rebekah T. Taylor, Marzena E. Pazgier, Sasisekhar Bennuru, Alyssa R. Lindrose, Spencer L. Sterling, C. Paul Morris, Brynna I. Gleeson, Tim K. Maugel, Thomas B. Nutman, Edward Mitre*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Lymphatic filariasis is a debilitating disease that afflicts over 70 million people worldwide. It is caused by the parasitic nematodes Wuchereria bancrofti, Brugia malayi, and Brugia timori. Despite substantial success, efforts to eliminate LF will likely require more time and resources than predicted. Identifying new drug and vaccine targets in adult filariae could help elimination efforts. This study’s aim was to evaluate intestinal proteins in adult Brugia malayi worms as possible therapeutic targets. Using short interfering RNA (siRNA), we successfully targeted four candidate gene transcripts: Bma-Serpin, Bma-ShTK, Bma-Reprolysin, and Bma-LAD-2. Of those, Bma-LAD-2, an immunoglobulin superfamily cell adhesion molecule (IgSF CAM), was determined to be essential for adult worm survival. We observed a 70.42% knockdown in Bma-LAD-2 transcript levels 1 day post-siRNA incubation and an 87.02% reduction in protein expression 2 days post-siRNA incubation. This inhibition of Bma-LAD-2 expression resulted in an 80% decrease in worm motility over 6 days, a 93.43% reduction in micro-filaria release (Mf) by day 6 post-siRNA incubation, and a dramatic decrease in (4,5-dimethylthiazol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide (MTT) reduction. Transmission electron microscopy revealed the loss of microvilli and unraveling of mitochondrial cristae in the intestinal epithelium of Bma-LAD-2 siRNA-treated worms. Strikingly, BmaLAD-2 siRNA-treated worms exhibited an almost complete loss of pseudocoelomic fluid. A luciferase immunoprecipitation system assay did not detect anti-Bma-LAD-2 IgE in the serum of 30 LF patients, indicating that LF exposure does not result in IgE sensitization to this antigen. These results indicate that Bma-LAD-2 is an essential protein for adult Brugia malayi and may be an effective therapeutic target. IMPORTANCE Brugia malayi is a parasitic nematode that can cause lymphatic filariasis, a debilitating disease prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. Significant progress has been made toward eliminating the disease. However, complete eradication may require new therapeutics such as drugs or a vaccine that kill adult filariae. In this study, we identified an immunoglobulin superfamily cell adhesion molecule (Bma-LAD-2) as a potential drug and vaccine candidate. When we knocked down Bma-LAD-2 expression, we observed a decrease in worm motility, fecundity, and metabolism. We also visualized the loss of microvilli, destruction of the mitochondria in the intestinal epithelium, and loss of pseudocoelomic fluid contents after Bma-LAD-2 siRNA treatment. Finally, we demonstrated that serum from filaria-infected patients does not contain preexisting IgE to Bma-LAD-2, which indicates that this antigen would be safe to administer as a vaccine in populations where the disease is endemic.

Original languageEnglish
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Brugia malayi
  • Brugia pahangi
  • Brugia timori
  • Wuchereria bancrofti
  • filaria
  • filariasis
  • helminth
  • neglected tropical diseases
  • siRNA
  • vaccine


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