A wide range of recombinant proteins from Eimeria species have been reported to offer some degree of protection against infection and disease, but the specific biological function of these proteins is largely unknown. Previous studies have demonstrated a 19-kDa protein of unknown function designated SZ-1 in sporozoites and merozoites of Eimeria acervulina that can be used to confer partial protection against coccidiosis. Reverse transcriptase–polymerase chain reaction indicated that the gene for SZ-1 is expressed by all the asexual stages of Eimeria tenella. Rabbit antisera to recombinant SZ-1 recognized an approximately 19-kDa protein from extracts of E. tenella sporozoites, merozoites, sporulated oocysts, and oocysts in various stages of sporulation. Immunofluorescence antibody staining indicated specific staining of E. tenella sporozoites and merozoites. Staining was most intense in the cytoplasm of the posterior end of the parasite. The primary amino acid sequence of the gene for E. tenella SZ-1 deduced from the E. tenella genome indicated a conserved domain for the actin-regulatory protein profilin. A conserved binding site for poly-l-proline (PLP), characteristic of profilin was also observed. SZ-1 was separated from soluble extract of E. tenella proteins by affinity chromatography using a PLP ligand, confirming the ability of SZ-1 to bind PLP. SZ-1 also partially inhibited the polymerization of actin. The current results are consistent with the classification of SZ-1 as a profilin-related protein.
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