Current Microbiology

, Volume 60, Issue 2, pp 134–142 | Cite as

Evaluation of the Expression and Protective Potential of Leptospiral Sphingomyelinases

  • Eneas Carvalho
  • Angela S. Barbosa
  • Ricardo M. Gómez
  • Maria L. S. Oliveira
  • Eliete C. Romero
  • Amane P. Gonçales
  • Zenaide M. Morais
  • Sílvio A. Vasconcellos
  • Paulo L. HoEmail author


Leptospirosis is a zoonotic disease of global distribution, which affects both animals and humans. Pathogenic leptospires, the bacteria that cause this disease, require iron for their growth, and these spirochetes probably use their hemolysins, such as the sphingomyelinases, as a way to obtain this important nutrient from host red blood cells during infection. We expressed and purified the leptospiral sphingomyelinases Sph1, Sph2, Sph4, and SphH in a heterologous system. However, the recombinant proteins were not able to lyse sheep erythrocytes, despite having regular secondary structures. Transcripts for all sphingomyelinases tested were detected by RT-PCR analyses, but only Sph2 and SphH native proteins could be detected in Western blot assays using Leptospira whole extracts as well as in renal tubules of infected hamsters. Moreover, antibodies present in the serum of a human patient with laboratory-confirmed leptospirosis recognized Sph2, indicating that this sphingomyelinase is expressed and exposed to the immune system during infection in humans. However, in an animal challenge model, none of the sphingomyelinases tested conferred protection against leptospirosis.


Recombinant Protein Hemolytic Activity Leptospirosis Regular Secondary Structure Pathogenic Leptospire 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We thank Dr. Albert Leyva for English editing of the manuscript and FAPESP, CNPq, and Fundação Butantan for financial support.

Supplementary material

284_2009_9519_MOESM1_ESM.doc (32 kb)
(DOC 33 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Eneas Carvalho
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Angela S. Barbosa
    • 4
  • Ricardo M. Gómez
    • 5
  • Maria L. S. Oliveira
    • 1
  • Eliete C. Romero
    • 6
  • Amane P. Gonçales
    • 7
  • Zenaide M. Morais
    • 7
  • Sílvio A. Vasconcellos
    • 7
  • Paulo L. Ho
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Centro de Biotecnologia, Instituto ButantanSão PauloBrazil
  2. 2.Departamento de Genética e Biologia Evolutiva, Instituto de BiociênciasUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil
  3. 3.Laboratório de ParasitologiaInstituto ButantanSão PauloBrazil
  4. 4.Laboratório de BacteriologiaInstituto ButantanSão PauloBrazil
  5. 5.Instituto de Biotecnología y Biología MolecularUniversidad Nacional de La Plata, Centro Científico Tecnológico CONICETLa PlataArgentina
  6. 6.Seção de Bacteriologia, Instituto Adolfo LutzSão PauloBrazil
  7. 7.Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária e ZootecniaUniversidade de São PauloSão PauloBrazil

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