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Malar J. 2009 Jun 5;8:120. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-8-120.

T-cell epitope polymorphisms of the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein among field isolates from Sierra Leone: age-dependent haplotype distribution?

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  • 1Division of Medical Zoology, Department of Infection and Immunity, Jichi Medical University, Shimotsuke, Tochigi, Japan.



In the context of the development of a successful malaria vaccine, understanding the polymorphisms exhibited by malaria antigens in natural parasite populations is crucial for proper vaccine design. Recent observations have indicated that sequence polymorphisms in the C-terminal T-cell epitopes of the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (Pfcsp) are rather low and apparently stable in low endemic areas. This study sought to assess the pattern in a malaria endemic setting in Africa, using samples from Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Filter-paper blood samples were collected from subjects at a teaching hospital in Freetown during September-October 2006 and in April-May 2007. The C-terminal portion of the Pfcsp gene spanning the Th2R and Th3R epitopes was amplified and directly sequenced; sequences were analysed with subject parameters and polymorphism patterns in Freetown were compared to that in other malaria endemic areas.


Overall, the genetic diversity in Freetown was high. From a total of 99 sequences, 42 haplotypes were identified with at least three accounting for 44.4% (44/99): the 3D7-type (19.2%), a novel type, P-01 (17.2%), and E12 (8.1%). Interestingly, all were unique to the African sub-region and there appeared to be predilection for certain haplotypes to distribute in certain age-groups: the 3D7 type was detected mainly in hospitalized children under 15 years of age, while the P-01 type was common in adult antenatal females (Pearson Chi-square = 48.750, degrees of freedom = 34, P = 0.049). In contrast, the single-haplotype predominance (proportion > 50%) pattern previously identified in Asia was not detected in Freetown.


Haplotype distribution of the T-cell epitopes of Pfcsp in Freetown appeared to vary with age in the study population, and the polymorphism patterns were similar to that observed in neighbouring Gambia, but differed significantly at the sequence level from that observed in Asia. The findings further emphasize the role of local factors in generating polymorphisms in the T-cell epitopes of the P. falciparum circumsporozoite protein.

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