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J Immunol. 2009 Nov 1;183(9):5870-8. doi: 10.4049/jimmunol.0900302. Epub 2009 Oct 7.

Genetically attenuated parasite vaccines induce contact-dependent CD8+ T cell killing of Plasmodium yoelii liver stage-infected hepatocytes.

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  • 1Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


The production of IFN-gamma by CD8(+) T cells is an important hallmark of protective immunity induced by irradiation-attenuated sporozoites against malaria. Here, we demonstrate that protracted sterile protection conferred by a Plasmodium yoelii genetically attenuated parasite (PyGAP) vaccine was completely dependent on CD8(+) T lymphocytes but only partially dependent on IFN-gamma. We used live cell imaging to document that CD8(+) CTL from PyGAP-immunized mice directly killed hepatocyte infected with a liver stage parasite. Immunization studies with perforin and IFN-gamma knockout mice also indicated that the protection was largely dependent on perforin-mediated effector mechanisms rather than on IFN-gamma. This was further supported by our observation that both liver and spleen CD8(+) T cells from PyGAP-immunized mice induced massive apoptosis of liver stage-infected hepatocytes in vitro without the release of detectable IFN-gamma and TNF-alpha. Conversely, CD8(+) T cells isolated from naive mice that had survived wild-type P. yoelii sporozoite infection targeted mainly sporozoite-traversed and uninfected hepatocytes, revealing an immune evasion strategy that might be used by wild-type parasites to subvert host immune responses during natural infection. However, CTLs from wild-type sporozoite-challenged mice could recognize and kill infected hepatocytes that were pulsed with circumsporozoite protein. Additionally, protection in PyGAP-immunized mice directly correlated with the magnitude of effector memory CD8(+) T cells. Our findings implicate CTLs as key immune effectors in a highly protective PyGAP vaccine for malaria and emphasize the critical need to define surrogate markers for correlates of protection, apart from IFN-gamma.

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