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PLoS One. 2011;6(9):e24852. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0024852. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Age-related differences in naturally acquired T cell memory to Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein 1.

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Center for Global Health Research, Kenya Medical Research Institute, Kisumu, Kenya.


Naturally acquired immunity to Plasmodium falciparum malaria in malaria holoendemic areas is characterized by the gradual, age-related development of protection against high-density parasitemia and clinical malaria. Animal studies, and less commonly, observations of humans with malaria, suggest that T-cell responses are important in the development and maintenance of this immunity, which is mediated primarily by antibodies that slow repeated cycles of merozoites through erythrocytes. To advance our rather limited knowledge on human T-cell immunity to blood stage malaria infection, we evaluated CD4 and CD8 T-cell effector memory subset responses to the 42 kDa C-terminal fragment of Merozoite Surface Protein 1 (MSP1(42)), a malaria vaccine candidate, by 49 healthy 0.5 to ≥18 year old residents of a holoendemic area in western Kenya. The proportion of individuals with peripheral blood mononuclear cell MSP1(42) driven IFN-γ ELISPOT responses increased from 20% (2/20) among 0.5-1 year old children to 90% (9/10) of adults ≥18 years (P = 0.01); parallel increases in the magnitude of IFN-γ responses were observed across all age groups (0.5, 1, 2, 5 and ≥18 years, P = 0.001). Less than 1% of total CD4 and CD8 T-cells from both children and adults produced IFN-γ in response to MSP1(42). However, adults had higher proportions of MSP1(42) driven IFN-γ secreting CD4 and CD8 effector memory (CD45RA(-) CD62L(-)) T-cells than children (CD4: 50.9% vs. 28.8%, P = 0.036; CD8: 52.1% vs. 18.3%, respectively P = 0.009). In contrast, MSP1(42) driven IFN-γ secreting naïve-like, transitional (CD45RA(+) CD62L(+)) CD4 and CD8 cells were the predominant T-cell subset among children with significantly fewer of these cells in adults (CD4: 34.9% vs. 5.1%, P = 0.002; CD8: 47.0% vs. 20.5%, respectively, P = 0.030). These data support the concept that meaningful age-related differences exist in the quality of T-cell immunity to malaria antigens such as MSP1.

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