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PLoS Pathog. 2019 Feb 27;15(2):e1007599. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1007599. eCollection 2019 Feb.

Plasmodium-specific antibodies block in vivo parasite growth without clearing infected red blood cells.

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QIMR Berghofer Medical Research Institute, Herston, Brisbane QLD, Australia.
Infection Analytics Program, Kirby Institute, UNSW Australia, Kensington NSW, Australia.
University of Melbourne, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.


Plasmodium parasites invade and multiply inside red blood cells (RBC). Through a cycle of maturation, asexual replication, rupture and release of multiple infective merozoites, parasitised RBC (pRBC) can reach very high numbers in vivo, a process that correlates with disease severity in humans and experimental animals. Thus, controlling pRBC numbers can prevent or ameliorate malaria. In endemic regions, circulating parasite-specific antibodies associate with immunity to high parasitemia. Although in vitro assays reveal that protective antibodies could control pRBC via multiple mechanisms, in vivo assessment of antibody function remains challenging. Here, we employed two mouse models of antibody-mediated immunity to malaria, P. yoelii 17XNL and P. chabaudi chabaudi AS infection, to study infection-induced, parasite-specific antibody function in vivo. By tracking a single generation of pRBC, we tested the hypothesis that parasite-specific antibodies accelerate pRBC clearance. Though strongly protective against homologous re-challenge, parasite-specific IgG did not alter the rate of pRBC clearance, even in the presence of ongoing, systemic inflammation. Instead, antibodies prevented parasites progressing from one generation of RBC to the next. In vivo depletion studies using clodronate liposomes or cobra venom factor, suggested that optimal antibody function required splenic macrophages and dendritic cells, but not complement C3/C5-mediated killing. Finally, parasite-specific IgG bound poorly to the surface of pRBC, yet strongly to structures likely exposed by the rupture of mature schizonts. Thus, in our models of humoral immunity to malaria, infection-induced antibodies did not accelerate pRBC clearance, and instead co-operated with splenic phagocytes to block subsequent generations of pRBC.

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