The Schistosoma mansoni Sm14 antigen belongs to the fatty acid-binding protein family and is considered a vaccine candidate against at least two parasite worms, Fasciola hepatica and S. mansoni. Here the genomic sequence and the polymorphism of Sm14 have been characterized for the first time. We found that the conserved methionine at position 20 is polymorphic, being exchangeable with threonine (M20T). To evaluate the function of the amino acid residue at this position, we have also constructed the mutant Sm14-A20 besides the two native isoforms (Sm14-M20 and Sm14-T20). The three purified recombinant His6-tagged Sm14 proteins (rSm14-M20, rSm14-T20, and rSm14-A20) present a predominant β-barrel structure as shown by CD spectroscopy. Thermal and urea unfolding studies evidenced a higher structural stability of rSm14-M20 over the other forms (rSm14M20>rSm14-T20>rSm14-A20). All of the Sm14 proteins were able to bind 11-(dansylamino)undecanoic acid (DAUDA) without substantial difference in the binding affinity. However, rSm14-M20 exhibited a higher affinity for natural fatty acids than the rSm14-T20 and rSm14-A20 proteins as judged by competitive experiments against DAUDA (rSm14-M20>rSm14-T20> rSm14-A20). The rSm14-M20 or rSm14-T20 isoforms but not the rSm14-A20 mutant was able to induce significant protection against S. mansoni cercariae challenge in immunized mice. The level of protection efficacy correlates with the extent of structure stability of the recombinant Sm14 isoforms and mutant.
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