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Immunology. 1989 Apr;66(4):600-5.

Soluble malarial antigens are toxic and induce the production of tumour necrosis factor in vivo.

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Department of Immunology, University College & Middlesex School of Medicine, University College, London.


Heat-stable soluble products of rodent malarial parasites induce activated peritoneal macrophages to secrete tumour necrosis factor (TNF) in vitro. Since heat-stable parasite antigens are known to be present in the circulation of patients with malaria and it has been suggested that much of the pathology of malaria is due to TNF, we investigated the ability of such antigens to induce the production of TNF in vivo and to be toxic to mice. Injection of antigens obtained from Plasmodium yoelii or from P. berghei into mice which had previously received the macrophage-activating agent Propionibacterium acnes induced the release of TNF into the serum in amounts equivalent to the maximum release induced by bacterial lipopolysaccharide (LPS). Specific antiserum blocked the ability to the boiled soluble antigens, but not of LPS, to induce release of TNF. Similarly, vaccination specifically inhibited the release of TNF into the serum in response to subsequent stimulation with the antigens, but not with LPS. Mice made hypersensitive to the lethal action of TNF by pretreatment with D-galactosamine were killed in a dose-related fashion by administration of antigen preparations; addition of specific antiserum or prior vaccination with the antigens protected such mice, but not those given LPS, from death. We conclude that, in malaria, soluble antigens derived from the parasites may act like a toxin by stimulating the production of TNF, an important mediator of endotoxic shock, and that immunization with such antigens may diminish TNF secretion and consequently many of the clinical manifestations of the disease.

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