[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Plasmodium falciparum is the major cause of malaria globally and is transmitted by mosquitoes. During parasitic development, P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes (P. falciparum-IEs) express multiple polymorphic proteins known as variant surface antigens (VSAs), including the P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1). VSA-specific antibodies are associated with protection from symptomatic and severe malaria. However, the importance of the different VSA targets of immunity to malaria remains unclear, which has impeded an understanding of malaria immunity and vaccine development. In this study, we developed assays using transgenic P. falciparum with modified PfEMP1 expression to quantify serum antibodies to VSAs among individuals exposed to malaria. We found that the majority of the human antibody response to the IE targets PfEMP1. Furthermore, our longitudinal studies showed that individuals with PfEMP1-specific antibodies had a significantly reduced risk of developing symptomatic malaria, whereas antibodies to other surface antigens were not associated with protective immunity. Using assays that measure antibody-mediated phagocytosis of IEs, an important mechanism in parasite clearance, we identified PfEMP1 as the major target of these functional antibodies. Taken together, these data demonstrate that PfEMP1 is a key target of humoral immunity. These findings advance our understanding of the targets and mediators of human immunity to malaria and have major implications for malaria vaccine development.
The Journal of clinical investigation 08/2012; 122(9):3227-38. · 15.39 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Pregnant women are infected by specific variants of Plasmodium falciparum that adhere and accumulate in the placenta. Using serological and molecular approaches, we assessed the global antigenic diversity of surface antigens expressed by placenta-binding isolates to better understand immunity to malaria in pregnancy and evolution of polymorphisms and to inform vaccine development. We found that placenta-binding isolates originating from all major regions where malaria occurs were commonly recognized by antibodies in different populations of pregnant women. There was substantial antigenic overlap and sharing of epitopes between isolates, including isolates from distant geographic locations, suggesting that there are limitations to antigenic diversity; however, differences between populations and isolates were also seen. Many women had cross-reactive antibodies and/or a broad repertoire of antibodies to different isolates. Studying VAR2CSA as the major antigen expressed by placenta-binding isolates, we identified antibody epitopes encoded by variable sequence blocks in the DBL3 domain. Analysis of global var2csa DBL3 sequences demonstrated that there was extensive sharing of variable blocks between Africa, Asia, Papua New Guinea, and Latin America, which likely contributes to the high level of antigenic overlap between different isolates. However, there was also evidence of geographic clustering of sequences and differences in VAR2CSA sequences between populations. The results indicate that there is limited antigenic diversity in placenta-binding isolates and may explain why immunity to malaria in pregnancy can be achieved after exposure during one pregnancy. Inclusion of a limited number of variants in a candidate vaccine may be sufficient for broad population coverage, but geographic considerations may also have to be included in vaccine design.
Infection and immunity 02/2010; 78(5):1963-78. · 4.21 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A major part of virulence for Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection, the most lethal parasitic disease of humans, results from increased rigidity and adhesiveness of infected host red cells. These changes are caused by parasite proteins exported to the erythrocyte using novel trafficking machinery assembled in the host cell. To understand these unique modifications, we used a large-scale gene knockout strategy combined with functional screens to identify proteins exported into parasite-infected erythrocytes and involved in remodeling these cells. Eight genes were identified encoding proteins required for export of the parasite adhesin PfEMP1 and assembly of knobs that function as physical platforms to anchor the adhesin. Additionally, we show that multiple proteins play a role in generating increased rigidity of infected erythrocytes. Collectively these proteins function as a pathogen secretion system, similar to bacteria and may provide targets for antivirulence based therapies to a disease responsible for millions of deaths annually.
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Merozoite surface protein 8 (MSP8) has shown promise as a vaccine candidate in the Plasmodium yoelii rodent malaria model and has a proposed role in merozoite invasion of erythrocytes. However, the temporal expression and localisation of MSP8 are unusual for a merozoite antigen. Moreover, in Plasmodium falciparum the MSP8 gene could be disrupted with no apparent effect on invitro growth. To address the invivo function of full-length MSP8, we truncated MSP8 in the rodent parasite Plasmodium berghei. PbDeltaMSP8 disruptant parasites displayed a normal blood-stage growth rate but no increase in reticulocyte preference, a phenomenon observed in P. yoelii MSP8 vaccinated mice. Expression levels of erythrocyte surface antigens were similar in P. berghei wild-type and PbDeltaMSP8-infected erythrocytes, suggesting that a parasitophorous vacuole function for MSP8 does not involve global trafficking of such antigens. These data demonstrate that a full-length membrane-associated form of PbMSP8 is not essential for blood-stage growth.
Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology 06/2008; 159(1):69-72. · 2.73 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: Chondroitin sulfate (CS) A is a key receptor for adhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IEs) in the placenta and can also mediate adhesion to microvascular endothelial cells. IEs that adhere to CSA express var2csa-type genes, which encode specific variants of the IE surface antigen P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1). We report direct binding of native PfEMP1, isolated from IEs and encoded by var2csa, to immobilized CSA. Binding of PfEMP1 was dependent on 4-O-sulfated disaccharides and glucuronic acid rather than iduronic acid, consistent with the specificity of intact IEs. Using immobilized CS oligosaccharides as neoglycolipid probes, the minimum chain length for direct binding of PfEMP1 was eight monosaccharide units. Similarly for IE adhesion to placental tissue there was a requirement for 4-O-sulfated GalNAc and glucuronic acid mixed with non-sulfated disaccharides; 6-O-sulfation interfered with the interaction between placental CSA and IEs. The minimum chain length for maximal inhibition of adhesion was 10 monosaccharide residues. Partially 4-O-sulfated CS oligosaccharides (45-55% sulfation) were highly effective inhibitors of placental adhesion (IC(50), 0.15 microg/ml) and may have potential for therapeutic development. We used defined P. falciparum isolates expressing different variants of var2csa in adhesion assays and found that there were isolate-specific differences in the preferred structural motifs for adhesion to CSA that correlated with polymorphisms in PfEMP1 encoded by var2csa-type genes. This may influence sites of IE sequestration or parasite virulence. These findings have significant implications for understanding the pathogenesis and biology of malaria, particularly during pregnancy, and the development of targeted interventions.
Journal of Biological Chemistry 09/2007; 282(31):22426-36. · 4.65 Impact Factor
[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: During pregnancy, specific variants of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IEs) can accumulate in the placenta through adhesion to chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) mediated by expression of PfEMP1 encoded by var2csa-type genes. Antibodies against these variants are associated with protection from maternal malaria. We evaluated antibodies among Kenyan, Papua New Guinean, and Malawian men and Kenyan children against two different CSA-binding P. falciparum isolates expressing var2csa variants. Specific IgG was present at significant levels among some men and children from each population, suggesting exposure to these variants is not exclusive to pregnancy. However, the level and prevalence of antibodies was substantially lower overall than exposed multigravidas. IgG-binding was specific and did not represent antibodies to subpopulations of non-CSA-binding IEs, and some sera inhibited IE adhesion to CSA. These findings have significant implications for understanding malaria pathogenesis and immunity and may be significant for understanding the acquisition of immunity to maternal malaria.
The American journal of tropical medicine and hygiene 08/2007; 77(1):22-8. · 2.53 Impact Factor