Nadia L Bernasconi

University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England, United Kingdom

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Publications (8)84.54 Total impact

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    ABSTRACT: Acquired protection from Plasmodium falciparum placental malaria, a major cause of maternal, fetal, and infant morbidity, is mediated by IgG specific for the P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 variant VAR2CSA. This protein enables adhesion of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes to chondroitin sulfate A in the intervillous space. Although interclonal variation of the var2csa gene is lower than that among var genes in general, VAR2CSA-specific Abs appear to target mainly polymorphic epitopes. This has raised doubts about the feasibility of VAR2CSA-based vaccines. We used eight human monoclonal IgG Abs from affinity-matured memory B cells of P. falciparum-exposed women to study interclonal variation and functional importance of Ab epitopes among placental and peripheral parasites from East and West Africa. Most placental P. falciparum isolates were labeled by several mAbs, whereas peripheral isolates from children were essentially nonreactive. The mAb reactivity of peripheral isolates from pregnant women indicated that some were placental, whereas others had alternative sequestration foci. Most of the mAbs were comparable in their reactivity with bound infected erythrocytes (IEs) and recombinant VAR2CSA and interfered with IE and/or VAR2CSA binding to chondroitin sulfate A. Pair-wise mAb combinations were more inhibitory than single mAbs, and all of the mAbs together was the most efficient combination. Each mAb could opsonize IEs for phagocytosis, and a combination of the eight mAbs caused phagocytosis similar to that of plasma IgG-opsonized IEs. We conclude that functionally important Ab epitopes are shared by the majority of polymorphic VAR2CSA variants, which supports the feasibility of VAR2CSA-based vaccines against placental malaria.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2010 · The Journal of Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: Human cytomegalovirus (HCMV) is a widely circulating pathogen that causes severe disease in immunocompromised patients and infected fetuses. By immortalizing memory B cells from HCMV-immune donors, we isolated a panel of human monoclonal antibodies that neutralized at extremely low concentrations (90% inhibitory concentration [IC90] values ranging from 5 to 200 pM) HCMV infection of endothelial, epithelial, and myeloid cells. With the single exception of an antibody that bound to a conserved epitope in the UL128 gene product, all other antibodies bound to conformational epitopes that required expression of two or more proteins of the gH/gL/UL128-131A complex. Antibodies against gB, gH, or gM/gN were also isolated and, albeit less potent, were able to neutralize infection of both endothelial-epithelial cells and fibroblasts. This study describes unusually potent neutralizing antibodies against HCMV that might be used for passive immunotherapy and identifies, through the use of such antibodies, novel antigenic targets in HCMV for the design of immunogens capable of eliciting previously unknown neutralizing antibody responses.
    Full-text · Article · Nov 2009 · Journal of Virology
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    J Soerli · L Barfod · T Lavstsen · N L Bernasconi · A Lanzavecchia · L Hviid
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    ABSTRACT: Pregnancy-associated Plasmodium falciparum malaria (PAM) is a major cause of morbidity and mortality in African women and their offspring. PAM is characterized by accumulation of infected erythrocytes (IEs) that adhere to chondroitin sulphate A (CSA) in the placental intervillous space. We show here that human monoclonal IgG antibodies with specificity for variant surface antigens (VSA) specifically expressed by CSA-adhering IEs (VSAPAM) can be used in vitro to select parasites from nonpregnant donors to express VSAPAM and that this selection for VSAPAM expression results in preferential transcription of var2csa. The results corroborate current efforts to develop PAM-specific vaccines based on VAR2CSA.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2009 · Parasite Immunology
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    ABSTRACT: New prophylactic and therapeutic strategies to combat human infections with highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 viruses are needed. We generated neutralizing anti-H5N1 human monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) and tested their efficacy for prophylaxis and therapy in a murine model of infection. Using Epstein-Barr virus we immortalized memory B cells from Vietnamese adults who had recovered from infections with HPAI H5N1 viruses. Supernatants from B cell lines were screened in a virus neutralization assay. B cell lines secreting neutralizing antibodies were cloned and the mAbs purified. The cross-reactivity of these antibodies for different strains of H5N1 was tested in vitro by neutralization assays, and their prophylactic and therapeutic efficacy in vivo was tested in mice. In vitro, mAbs FLA3.14 and FLD20.19 neutralized both Clade I and Clade II H5N1 viruses, whilst FLA5.10 and FLD21.140 neutralized Clade I viruses only. In vivo, FLA3.14 and FLA5.10 conferred protection from lethality in mice challenged with A/Vietnam/1203/04 (H5N1) in a dose-dependent manner. mAb prophylaxis provided a statistically significant reduction in pulmonary virus titer, reduced associated inflammation in the lungs, and restricted extrapulmonary dissemination of the virus. Therapeutic doses of FLA3.14, FLA5.10, FLD20.19, and FLD21.140 provided robust protection from lethality at least up to 72 h postinfection with A/Vietnam/1203/04 (H5N1). mAbs FLA3.14, FLD21.140 and FLD20.19, but not FLA5.10, were also therapeutically active in vivo against the Clade II virus A/Indonesia/5/2005 (H5N1). These studies provide proof of concept that fully human mAbs with neutralizing activity can be rapidly generated from the peripheral blood of convalescent patients and that these mAbs are effective for the prevention and treatment of H5N1 infection in a mouse model. A panel of neutralizing, cross-reactive mAbs might be useful for prophylaxis or adjunctive treatment of human cases of H5N1 influenza.
    Full-text · Article · Jun 2007 · PLoS Medicine
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    ABSTRACT: Summary Pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM) is caused by Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IEs) that bind to chondroitin sulphate A (CSA) in the placenta by PAM-associated clonally variant surface antigens (VSA). Pregnancy-specific VSA (VSAPAM), which include the PfEMP1 variant VAR2CSA, are targets of IgG-mediated protective immunity to PAM. Here, we report an investigation of the specificity of naturally acquired immunity to PAM, using eight human monoclonal IgG1 antibodies that react exclusively with intact CSA-adhering IEs expressing VSAPAM. Four reacted in Western blotting with high-molecular-weight (> 200 kDa) proteins, while seven reacted with either the DBL3-X or the DBL5-ε domains of VAR2CSA expressed either as Baculovirus constructs or on the surface of transfected Jurkat cells. We used a panel of recombinant antigens representing DBL3-X domains from P. falciparum field isolates to evaluate B-cell epitope diversity among parasite isolates, and identified the binding site of one monoclonal antibody using a chimeric DBL3-X construct. Our findings show that there is a high-frequency memory response to VSAPAM, indicating that VAR2CSA is a primary target of naturally acquired PAM-specific protective immunity, and demonstrate the value of human monoclonal antibodies and conformationally intact recombinant antigens in VSA characterization.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2007 · Molecular Microbiology
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    ABSTRACT: The work of our laboratory has focused on the study of human memory B cells. Using an in vitro approach we dissected the triggering requirements of B cells and unveiled a distinct role for TLRs in the activation of naive versus memory B cells. Using an ex vivo approach we analyzed the dynamics of memory B cells and ASCs and the kinetics of serum antibodies during secondary immune responses and in steady state conditions and used these quantitative data to build up a model of serological memory. According to this model memory B cells behave as ;stem cells' capable of generating plasma cells and antibodies in an antigen-dependent as well as in an antigen-independent fashion. Finally we developed an efficient method to interrogate human memory B cells and to isolate human monoclonal antibodies. This method can be exploited for the production of neutralizing antibodies for serotherapy and for "analytic vaccinology".
    No preview · Article · Jul 2006 · Immunological Reviews
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    Nadia L Bernasconi · Nobuyuki Onai · Antonio Lanzavecchia
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    ABSTRACT: Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are pattern recognition receptors that trigger innate immunity. In this study we investigated the expression of 10 TLRs in human naive and memory B-cell subsets. We report that in human naive B cells most TLRs are expressed at low to undetectable levels, but the expression of TLR9 and TLR10 is rapidly induced following B-cell-receptor (BCR) triggering. In contrast, memory B cells express several TLRs at constitutively high levels. The differential expression of TLR9 correlates with responsiveness to its agonist, CpG DNA. Thus, human memory B cells proliferate and differentiate to immunoglobulin (Ig)-secreting cells in response to CpG, while naive B do so only if simultaneously triggered through the BCR. The BCR-induced expression of TLRs in human naive B cells prevents polyclonal activation in a primary response, because it restricts stimulation to antigen-specific B cells. In contrast, the constitutive expression of TLRs in memory B cells allows polyclonal activation of the entire memory pool. Thus, in human B cells TLRs are downstream of BCR and play a role both in the primary response and in the memory phase.
    Preview · Article · Jul 2003 · Blood
  • Nadia L Bernasconi · Elisabetta Traggiai · Antonio Lanzavecchia
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    ABSTRACT: Production of antibodies can last for a lifetime, through mechanisms that remain poorly understood. Here, we show that human memory B lymphocytes proliferate and differentiate into plasma cells in response to polyclonal stimuli, such as bystander T cell help and CpG DNA. Furthermore, plasma cells secreting antibodies to recall antigens are produced in vivo at levels proportional to the frequency of specific memory B cells, even several years after antigenic stimulation. Although antigen boosting leads to a transient increase in specific antibody levels, ongoing polyclonal activation of memory B cells offers a means to maintain serological memory for a human lifetime.
    No preview · Article · Jan 2003 · Science

Publication Stats

2k Citations
84.54 Total Impact Points


  • 2010
    • University of Cambridge
      • Department of Biochemistry
      Cambridge, England, United Kingdom
  • 2009
    • Policlinico San Matteo Pavia Fondazione IRCCS
      Ticinum, Lombardy, Italy
  • 2003-2009
    • Institute for Research in Biomedicine
      Bellinzona, Ticino, Switzerland