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Infect Immun. 2014 Apr;82(4):1453-9. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01438-13. Epub 2014 Jan 13.

Potent malaria transmission-blocking antibody responses elicited by Plasmodium falciparum Pfs25 expressed in Escherichia coli after successful protein refolding.

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Department of Tropical Medicine and Vector-Borne Infectious Disease Research Center, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA.


Production of Pfs25, a Plasmodium falciparum transmission-blocking vaccine target antigen, in functional conformation with the potential to elicit effective immunogenicity still remains a major challenge. In the current study, codon-harmonized recombinant Pfs25 (CHrPfs25) was expressed in Escherichia coli, and purified protein after simple oxidative refolding steps retained reduction-sensitive conformational epitopes of transmission-blocking monoclonal antibodies. CHrPfs25 formulated in several adjuvants elicited strong immunogenicity in preclinical studies in mice. Antibodies elicited after immunization recognized native Pfs25 on the surface of live gametes of P. falciparum and demonstrated complete malaria transmission-blocking activity. The transmission-blocking efficacy was 100% even after a 1:128 dilution of sera from immunized mice in the complete Freund's adjuvant and Montanide ISA51 groups and after a 1:16 dilution of sera from mice in the alum group. The blocking was mediated by antibodies; purified IgG at concentrations as low as 31.25 μg/ml exhibited 100% transmission blocking in membrane feeding assays employing two different species of mosquitoes, Anopheles gambiae and Anopheles stephensi. This study provides the first evidence for successful expression of biologically functional rPfs25 in E. coli. The extremely potent malaria transmission-blocking activity of antibodies elicited by immunization with purified protein provides strong support for further evaluation of E. coli-derived CHrPfs25 as a malaria transmission-blocking vaccine in human clinical trials.

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