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Antigenic cartography of immune responses to Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1)

Naturally acquired clinical immunity to Plasmodium falciparum is partly mediated by antibodies directed at parasite-derived antigens expressed on the surface of red blood cells which mediate disease and are extremely diverse. Unlike children, adults recognize a broad range of variant surface antigens (VSAs) and are protected from severe disease. Though crucial to the design and feasibility of an effective malaria vaccine, it is not yet known whether immunity arises through cumulative exposure to each of many antigenic types, cross-reactivity between antigenic types, or some other mechanism. In this study, we measured plasma antibody responses of 36 children with symptomatic malaria to a diverse panel of 36 recombinant proteins comprising part of the DBLalpha domain (the 'DBLalpha-tag') of PfEMP1, a major class of VSAs. We found that although plasma antibody responses were highly specific to individual antigens, serological profiles of responses across antigens fell into one of just two distinct types. One type was found almost exclusively in children that succumbed to severe disease (19 out of 20) while the other occurred in all children with mild disease (16 out of 16). Moreover, children with severe malaria had serological profiles that were narrower in antigen specificity and shorter-lived than those in children with mild malaria. Borrowing a novel technique used in influenza-antigenic cartography-we mapped these dichotomous serological profiles to amino acid sequence variation within a small sub-region of the PfEMP1 DBLalpha domain. By applying our methodology on a larger scale, it should be possible to identify epitopes responsible for eliciting the protective version of serological profiles to PfEMP1 thereby accelerating development of a broadly effective anti-disease malaria vaccine.
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Antigenic cartography of immune responses to Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1)

Naturally acquired clinical immunity to Plasmodium falciparum is partly mediated by antibodies directed at parasite-derived antigens expressed on the surface of red blood cells which mediate disease and are extremely diverse. Unlike children, adults recognize a broad range of variant surface antigens (VSAs) and are protected from severe disease. Though crucial to the design and feasibility of an effective malaria vaccine, it is not yet known whether immunity arises through cumulative exposure to each of many antigenic types, cross-reactivity between antigenic types, or some other mechanism. In this study, we measured plasma antibody responses of 36 children with symptomatic malaria to a diverse panel of 36 recombinant proteins comprising part of the DBLalpha domain (the 'DBLalpha-tag') of PfEMP1, a major class of VSAs. We found that although plasma antibody responses were highly specific to individual antigens, serological profiles of responses across antigens fell into one of just two distinct types. One type was found almost exclusively in children that succumbed to severe disease (19 out of 20) while the other occurred in all children with mild disease (16 out of 16). Moreover, children with severe malaria had serological profiles that were narrower in antigen specificity and shorter-lived than those in children with mild malaria. Borrowing a novel technique used in influenza-antigenic cartography-we mapped these dichotomous serological profiles to amino acid sequence variation within a small sub-region of the PfEMP1 DBLalpha domain. By applying our methodology on a larger scale, it should be possible to identify epitopes responsible for eliciting the protective version of serological profiles to PfEMP1 thereby accelerating development of a broadly effective anti-disease malaria vaccine.
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Long read assemblies of geographically dispersed Plasmodium falciparum isolates reveal highly structured subtelomeres

Background: Although thousands of clinical isolates of Plasmodium falciparum are being sequenced and analysed by short read technology, the data do not resolve the highly variable subtelomeric regions of the genomes that contain polymorphic gene families involved in immune evasion and pathogenesis. There is also no current standard definition of the boundaries of these variable subtelomeric regions. Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated the genomes of 15 P. falciparum isolates, ten of which are newly cultured clinical isolates. We performed comparative analysis of the entire genome with particular emphasis on the subtelomeric regions and the internal var genes clusters. Results: The nearly complete sequence of these 15 isolates has enabled us to define a highly conserved core genome, to delineate the boundaries of the subtelomeric regions, and to compare these across isolates. We found highly structured variable regions in the genome. Some exported gene families purportedly involved in release of merozoites show copy number variation. As an example of ongoing genome evolution, we found a novel CLAG gene in six isolates. We also found a novel gene that was relatively enriched in the South East Asian isolates compared to those from Africa. Conclusions: These 15 manually curated new reference genome sequences with their nearly complete subtelomeric regions and fully assembled genes are an important new resource for the malaria research community. We report the overall conserved structure and pattern of important gene families and the more clearly defined subtelomeric regions.
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Long read assemblies of geographically dispersed Plasmodium falciparum isolates reveal highly structured subtelomeres

Background: Although thousands of clinical isolates of Plasmodium falciparum are being sequenced and analysed by short read technology, the data do not resolve the highly variable subtelomeric regions of the genomes that contain polymorphic gene families involved in immune evasion and pathogenesis. There is also no current standard definition of the boundaries of these variable subtelomeric regions. Methods: Using long-read sequence data (Pacific Biosciences SMRT technology), we assembled and annotated the genomes of 15 P. falciparum isolates, ten of which are newly cultured clinical isolates. We performed comparative analysis of the entire genome with particular emphasis on the subtelomeric regions and the internal var genes clusters. Results: The nearly complete sequence of these 15 isolates has enabled us to define a highly conserved core genome, to delineate the boundaries of the subtelomeric regions, and to compare these across isolates. We found highly structured variable regions in the genome. Some exported gene families purportedly involved in release of merozoites show copy number variation. As an example of ongoing genome evolution, we found a novel CLAG gene in six isolates. We also found a novel gene that was relatively enriched in the South East Asian isolates compared to those from Africa. Conclusions: These 15 manually curated new reference genome sequences with their nearly complete subtelomeric regions and fully assembled genes are an important new resource for the malaria research community. We report the overall conserved structure and pattern of important gene families and the more clearly defined subtelomeric regions.
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Implications of insecticide resistance for malaria vector control with long-lasting insecticidal nets: a WHO-coordinated, prospective, international, observational cohort study

BACKGROUND: Scale-up of insecticide-based interventions has averted more than 500 million malaria cases since 2000. Increasing insecticide resistance could herald a rebound in disease and mortality. We aimed to investigate whether insecticide resistance was associated with loss of effectiveness of long-lasting insecticidal nets and increased malaria disease burden. METHODS: This WHO-coordinated, prospective, observational cohort study was done at 279 clusters (villages or groups of villages in which phenotypic resistance was measurable) in Benin, Cameroon, India, Kenya, and Sudan. Pyrethroid long-lasting insecticidal nets were the principal form of malaria vector control in all study areas; in Sudan this approach was supplemented by indoor residual spraying. Cohorts of children from randomly selected households in each cluster were recruited and followed up by community health workers to measure incidence of clinical malaria and prevalence of infection. Mosquitoes were assessed for susceptibility to pyrethroids using the standard WHO bioassay test. Country-specific results were combined using meta-analysis. FINDINGS: Between June 2, 2012, and Nov 4, 2016, 40 000 children were enrolled and assessed for clinical incidence during 1.4 million follow-up visits. 80 000 mosquitoes were assessed for insecticide resistance. Long-lasting insecticidal net users had lower infection prevalence (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.63, 95% CI 0.51-0.78) and disease incidence (adjusted rate ratio [RR] 0.62, 0.41-0.94) than did non-users across a range of resistance levels. We found no evidence of an association between insecticide resistance and infection prevalence (adjusted OR 0.86, 0.70-1.06) or incidence (adjusted RR 0.89, 0.72-1.10). Users of nets, although significantly better protected than non-users, were nevertheless subject to high malaria infection risk (ranging from an average incidence in net users of 0.023, [95% CI 0.016-0.033] per person-year in India, to 0.80 [0.65-0.97] per person year in Kenya; and an average infection prevalence in net users of 0.8% [0.5-1.3] in India to an average infection prevalence of 50.8% [43.4-58.2] in Benin). INTERPRETATION: Irrespective of resistance, populations in malaria endemic areas should continue to use long-lasting insecticidal nets to reduce their risk of infection. As nets provide only partial protection, the development of additional vector control tools should be prioritised to reduce the unacceptably high malaria burden. FUNDING: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Medical Research Council, and UK Department for International Development.
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Implications of insecticide resistance for malaria vector control with long-lasting insecticidal nets: a WHO-coordinated, prospective, international, observational cohort study

BACKGROUND: Scale-up of insecticide-based interventions has averted more than 500 million malaria cases since 2000. Increasing insecticide resistance could herald a rebound in disease and mortality. We aimed to investigate whether insecticide resistance was associated with loss of effectiveness of long-lasting insecticidal nets and increased malaria disease burden. METHODS: This WHO-coordinated, prospective, observational cohort study was done at 279 clusters (villages or groups of villages in which phenotypic resistance was measurable) in Benin, Cameroon, India, Kenya, and Sudan. Pyrethroid long-lasting insecticidal nets were the principal form of malaria vector control in all study areas; in Sudan this approach was supplemented by indoor residual spraying. Cohorts of children from randomly selected households in each cluster were recruited and followed up by community health workers to measure incidence of clinical malaria and prevalence of infection. Mosquitoes were assessed for susceptibility to pyrethroids using the standard WHO bioassay test. Country-specific results were combined using meta-analysis. FINDINGS: Between June 2, 2012, and Nov 4, 2016, 40 000 children were enrolled and assessed for clinical incidence during 1.4 million follow-up visits. 80 000 mosquitoes were assessed for insecticide resistance. Long-lasting insecticidal net users had lower infection prevalence (adjusted odds ratio [OR] 0.63, 95% CI 0.51-0.78) and disease incidence (adjusted rate ratio [RR] 0.62, 0.41-0.94) than did non-users across a range of resistance levels. We found no evidence of an association between insecticide resistance and infection prevalence (adjusted OR 0.86, 0.70-1.06) or incidence (adjusted RR 0.89, 0.72-1.10). Users of nets, although significantly better protected than non-users, were nevertheless subject to high malaria infection risk (ranging from an average incidence in net users of 0.023, [95% CI 0.016-0.033] per person-year in India, to 0.80 [0.65-0.97] per person year in Kenya; and an average infection prevalence in net users of 0.8% [0.5-1.3] in India to an average infection prevalence of 50.8% [43.4-58.2] in Benin). INTERPRETATION: Irrespective of resistance, populations in malaria endemic areas should continue to use long-lasting insecticidal nets to reduce their risk of infection. As nets provide only partial protection, the development of additional vector control tools should be prioritised to reduce the unacceptably high malaria burden. FUNDING: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, UK Medical Research Council, and UK Department for International Development.
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Proteomic analysis of extracellular vesicles from a Plasmodium falciparum Kenyan clinical isolate defines a core parasite secretome

BACKGROUND: Many pathogens secrete effector molecules to subvert host immune responses, to acquire nutrients, and/or to prepare host cells for invasion. One of the ways that effector molecules are secreted is through extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes. Recently, the malaria parasite P. falciparum has been shown to produce EVs that can mediate transfer of genetic material between parasites and induce sexual commitment. Characterizing the content of these vesicles may improve our understanding of P. falciparum pathogenesis and virulence. METHODS: Previous studies of P. falciparum EVs have been limited to long-term adapted laboratory isolates. In this study, we isolated EVs from a Kenyan P. falciparum clinical isolate adapted to in vitro culture for a short period and characterized their protein content by mass spectrometry (data are available via ProteomeXchange, with identifier PXD006925). RESULTS: We show that P. falciparum extracellular vesicles ( PfEVs) are enriched in proteins found within the exomembrane compartments of infected erythrocytes such as Maurer's clefts (MCs), as well as the secretory endomembrane compartments in the apical end of the merozoites, suggesting that these proteins play a role in parasite-host interactions. Comparison of this novel clinically relevant dataset with previously published datasets helps to define a core secretome present in Plasmodium EVs. CONCLUSIONS: P. falciparum extracellular vesicles contain virulence-associated parasite proteins. Therefore, analysis of PfEVs contents from a range of clinical isolates, and their functional validation may improve our understanding of the virulence mechanisms of the parasite, and potentially identify targets for interventions or diagnostics.
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Proteomic analysis of extracellular vesicles from a Plasmodium falciparum Kenyan clinical isolate defines a core parasite secretome

BACKGROUND: Many pathogens secrete effector molecules to subvert host immune responses, to acquire nutrients, and/or to prepare host cells for invasion. One of the ways that effector molecules are secreted is through extracellular vesicles (EVs) such as exosomes. Recently, the malaria parasite P. falciparum has been shown to produce EVs that can mediate transfer of genetic material between parasites and induce sexual commitment. Characterizing the content of these vesicles may improve our understanding of P. falciparum pathogenesis and virulence. METHODS: Previous studies of P. falciparum EVs have been limited to long-term adapted laboratory isolates. In this study, we isolated EVs from a Kenyan P. falciparum clinical isolate adapted to in vitro culture for a short period and characterized their protein content by mass spectrometry (data are available via ProteomeXchange, with identifier PXD006925). RESULTS: We show that P. falciparum extracellular vesicles ( PfEVs) are enriched in proteins found within the exomembrane compartments of infected erythrocytes such as Maurer's clefts (MCs), as well as the secretory endomembrane compartments in the apical end of the merozoites, suggesting that these proteins play a role in parasite-host interactions. Comparison of this novel clinically relevant dataset with previously published datasets helps to define a core secretome present in Plasmodium EVs. CONCLUSIONS: P. falciparum extracellular vesicles contain virulence-associated parasite proteins. Therefore, analysis of PfEVs contents from a range of clinical isolates, and their functional validation may improve our understanding of the virulence mechanisms of the parasite, and potentially identify targets for interventions or diagnostics.
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Public antibodies to malaria antigens generated by two LAIR1 insertion modalities

In two previously described donors, the extracellular domain of LAIR1, a collagen-binding inhibitory receptor encoded on chromosome 19 (ref. 1), was inserted between the V and DJ segments of an antibody. This insertion generated, through somatic mutations, broadly reactive antibodies against RIFINs, a type of variant antigen expressed on the surface of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes. To investigate how frequently such antibodies are produced in response to malaria infection, we screened plasma from two large cohorts of individuals living in malaria-endemic regions. Here we report that 5-10% of malaria-exposed individuals, but none of the European blood donors tested, have high levels of LAIR1-containing antibodies that dominate the response to infected erythrocytes without conferring enhanced protection against febrile malaria. By analysing the antibody-producing B cell clones at the protein, cDNA and gDNA levels, we characterized additional LAIR1 insertions between the V and DJ segments and discovered a second insertion modality whereby the LAIR1 exon encoding the extracellular domain and flanking intronic sequences are inserted into the switch region. By exon shuffling, this mechanism leads to the production of bispecific antibodies in which the LAIR1 domain is precisely positioned at the elbow between the VH and CH1 domains. Additionally, in one donor the genomic DNA encoding the VH and CH1 domains was deleted, leading to the production of a camel-like LAIR1-containing antibody. Sequencing of the switch regions of memory B cells from European blood donors revealed frequent templated inserts originating from transcribed genes that, in rare cases, comprised exons with orientations and frames compatible with expression. These results reveal different modalities of LAIR1 insertion that lead to public and dominant antibodies against infected erythrocytes and suggest that insertion of templated DNA represents an additional mechanism of antibody diversification that can be selected in the immune response against pathogens and exploited for B cell engineering.
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Public antibodies to malaria antigens generated by two LAIR1 insertion modalities

In two previously described donors, the extracellular domain of LAIR1, a collagen-binding inhibitory receptor encoded on chromosome 19 (ref. 1), was inserted between the V and DJ segments of an antibody. This insertion generated, through somatic mutations, broadly reactive antibodies against RIFINs, a type of variant antigen expressed on the surface of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes. To investigate how frequently such antibodies are produced in response to malaria infection, we screened plasma from two large cohorts of individuals living in malaria-endemic regions. Here we report that 5-10% of malaria-exposed individuals, but none of the European blood donors tested, have high levels of LAIR1-containing antibodies that dominate the response to infected erythrocytes without conferring enhanced protection against febrile malaria. By analysing the antibody-producing B cell clones at the protein, cDNA and gDNA levels, we characterized additional LAIR1 insertions between the V and DJ segments and discovered a second insertion modality whereby the LAIR1 exon encoding the extracellular domain and flanking intronic sequences are inserted into the switch region. By exon shuffling, this mechanism leads to the production of bispecific antibodies in which the LAIR1 domain is precisely positioned at the elbow between the VH and CH1 domains. Additionally, in one donor the genomic DNA encoding the VH and CH1 domains was deleted, leading to the production of a camel-like LAIR1-containing antibody. Sequencing of the switch regions of memory B cells from European blood donors revealed frequent templated inserts originating from transcribed genes that, in rare cases, comprised exons with orientations and frames compatible with expression. These results reveal different modalities of LAIR1 insertion that lead to public and dominant antibodies against infected erythrocytes and suggest that insertion of templated DNA represents an additional mechanism of antibody diversification that can be selected in the immune response against pathogens and exploited for B cell engineering.
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