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Infect Immun. 2012 Jul;80(7):2473-84. doi: 10.1128/IAI.00211-12. Epub 2012 May 14.

Evaluation of the immunogenicity and vaccine potential of recombinant Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein 8.

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Center for Molecular Parasitology, Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Drexel University College of Medicine, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA.


The C-terminal 19-kDa domain of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1₁₉) is the target of protective antibodies but alone is poorly immunogenic. Previously, using the Plasmodium yoelii murine model, we fused P. yoelii MSP1₁₉ (PyMSP1₁₉) with full-length P. yoelii merozoite surface protein 8 (MSP8). Upon immunization, the MSP8-restricted T cell response provided help for the production of high and sustained levels of protective PyMSP1₁₉- and PyMSP8-specific antibodies. Here, we assessed the vaccine potential of MSP8 of the human malaria parasite, Plasmodium falciparum. Distinct from PyMSP8, P. falciparum MSP8 (PfMSP8) contains an N-terminal asparagine and aspartic acid (Asn/Asp)-rich domain whose function is unknown. Comparative analysis of recombinant full-length PfMSP8 and a truncated version devoid of the Asn/Asp-rich domain, PfMSP8(ΔAsn/Asp), showed that both proteins were immunogenic for T cells and B cells. All T cell epitopes utilized mapped within rPfMSP8(ΔAsn/Asp). The dominant B cell epitopes were conformational and common to both rPfMSP8 and rPfMSP8(ΔAsn/Asp). Analysis of native PfMSP8 expression revealed that PfMSP8 is present intracellularly in late schizonts and merozoites. Following invasion, PfMSP8 is found distributed on the surface of ring- and trophozoite-stage parasites. Consistent with a low and/or transient expression of PfMSP8 on the surface of merozoites, PfMSP8-specific rabbit IgG did not inhibit the in vitro growth of P. falciparum blood-stage parasites. These studies suggest that the further development of PfMSP8 as a malaria vaccine component should focus on the use of PfMSP8(ΔAsn/Asp) and its conserved, immunogenic T cell epitopes as a fusion partner for protective domains of poor immunogens, including PfMSP1₁₉.

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