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Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite var gene expression is modified by host antibodies: longitudinal evidence from controlled infections of Kenyan adults with varying natural exposure

BACKGROUND: The PfEMP1 family of Plasmodium falciparum antigens play a key role in pathogenesis of severe malaria through their insertion into the surface of parasite infected erythrocytes, and adhesion to host cells. Previous studies have suggested that parasites expressing PfEMP1 subclasses group A and DC8, associated with severe malaria, may have a growth advantage in immunologically naive individuals. However, this idea has not been tested in longitudinal studies. METHODS: Here we assessed expression of the var genes encoding PfEMP1, in parasites sampled from volunteers with varying prior exposure to malaria, following experimental infection by sporozoites (PfSPZ). Using qPCR, we tested for associations between the expression of various var subgroups in surviving parasite populations from each volunteer and 1) the levels of participants' antibodies to infected erythrocytes before challenge infection and 2) the apparent in vivo parasite multiplication rate. RESULTS: We show that 1) expression of var genes encoding for group A and DC8-like PfEMP1 were associated with low levels of antibodies to infected erythrocytes (alphaIE) before challenge, and 2) expression of a DC8-like CIDRalpha1.1 domain was associated with higher apparent parasite multiplication rate in a manner that was independent of levels of prior antibodies to infected erythrocytes. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insight into the role of antibodies to infected erythrocytes surface antigens in the development of naturally acquired immunity and may help explain why specific PfEMP1 variants may be associated with severe malaria. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trial Registry: PACTR201211000433272 . Date of registration: 10th October 2012.
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Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite var gene expression is modified by host antibodies: longitudinal evidence from controlled infections of Kenyan adults with varying natural exposure

BACKGROUND: The PfEMP1 family of Plasmodium falciparum antigens play a key role in pathogenesis of severe malaria through their insertion into the surface of parasite infected erythrocytes, and adhesion to host cells. Previous studies have suggested that parasites expressing PfEMP1 subclasses group A and DC8, associated with severe malaria, may have a growth advantage in immunologically naive individuals. However, this idea has not been tested in longitudinal studies. METHODS: Here we assessed expression of the var genes encoding PfEMP1, in parasites sampled from volunteers with varying prior exposure to malaria, following experimental infection by sporozoites (PfSPZ). Using qPCR, we tested for associations between the expression of various var subgroups in surviving parasite populations from each volunteer and 1) the levels of participants' antibodies to infected erythrocytes before challenge infection and 2) the apparent in vivo parasite multiplication rate. RESULTS: We show that 1) expression of var genes encoding for group A and DC8-like PfEMP1 were associated with low levels of antibodies to infected erythrocytes (alphaIE) before challenge, and 2) expression of a DC8-like CIDRalpha1.1 domain was associated with higher apparent parasite multiplication rate in a manner that was independent of levels of prior antibodies to infected erythrocytes. CONCLUSIONS: This study provides insight into the role of antibodies to infected erythrocytes surface antigens in the development of naturally acquired immunity and may help explain why specific PfEMP1 variants may be associated with severe malaria. TRIAL REGISTRATION: Pan African Clinical Trial Registry: PACTR201211000433272 . Date of registration: 10th October 2012.
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Serological Conservation of Parasite-Infected Erythrocytes Predicts Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 Gene Expression but Not Severity of Childhood Malaria

Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), expressed on P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes, is a major family of clonally variant targets of naturally acquired immunity to malaria. Previous studies have demonstrated that in areas where malaria is endemic, antibodies to infected erythrocytes from children with severe malaria tend to be more seroprevalent than antibodies to infected erythrocytes from children with nonsevere malaria. These data have led to a working hypothesis that PfEMP1 variants associated with parasite virulence are relatively conserved in structure. However, the longevity of such serologically conserved variants in the parasite population is unknown. Here, using infected erythrocytes from recently sampled clinical P. falciparum samples, we measured serological conservation using pools of antibodies in sera that had been sampled 10 to 12 years earlier. The serological conservation of infected erythrocytes strongly correlated with the expression of specific PfEMP1 subsets previously found to be associated with severe malaria. However, we found no association between serological conservation per se and disease severity within these data. This contrasts with the simple hypothesis that P. falciparum isolates with a serologically conserved group of PfEMP1 variants cause severe malaria. The data are instead consistent with periodic turnover of the immunodominant epitopes of PfEMP1 associated with severe malaria.
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Serological Conservation of Parasite-Infected Erythrocytes Predicts Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 Gene Expression but Not Severity of Childhood Malaria

Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), expressed on P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes, is a major family of clonally variant targets of naturally acquired immunity to malaria. Previous studies have demonstrated that in areas where malaria is endemic, antibodies to infected erythrocytes from children with severe malaria tend to be more seroprevalent than antibodies to infected erythrocytes from children with nonsevere malaria. These data have led to a working hypothesis that PfEMP1 variants associated with parasite virulence are relatively conserved in structure. However, the longevity of such serologically conserved variants in the parasite population is unknown. Here, using infected erythrocytes from recently sampled clinical P. falciparum samples, we measured serological conservation using pools of antibodies in sera that had been sampled 10 to 12 years earlier. The serological conservation of infected erythrocytes strongly correlated with the expression of specific PfEMP1 subsets previously found to be associated with severe malaria. However, we found no association between serological conservation per se and disease severity within these data. This contrasts with the simple hypothesis that P. falciparum isolates with a serologically conserved group of PfEMP1 variants cause severe malaria. The data are instead consistent with periodic turnover of the immunodominant epitopes of PfEMP1 associated with severe malaria.
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Global selection of Plasmodium falciparum virulence antigen expression by host antibodies

Parasite proteins called PfEMP1 that are inserted on the surface of infected erythrocytes, play a key role in the severe pathology associated with infection by the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. These proteins mediate binding of infected cells to the endothelial lining of blood vessels as a strategy to avoid clearance by the spleen and are major targets of naturally acquired immunity. PfEMP1 is encoded by a large multi-gene family called var. Mutually-exclusive transcriptional switching between var genes allows parasites to escape host antibodies. This study examined in detail the patterns of expression of var in a well-characterized sample of parasites from Kenyan Children. Instead of observing clear inverse relationships between the expression of broad sub-classes of PfEMP1, we found that expression of different PfEMP1 groups vary relatively independently. Parasite adaptation to host antibodies also appears to involve a general reduction in detectable var gene expression. We suggest that parasites switch both between different PfEMP1 variants and between high and low expression states. Such a strategy could provide a means of avoiding immunological detection and promoting survival under high levels of host immunity.
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Global selection of Plasmodium falciparum virulence antigen expression by host antibodies

Parasite proteins called PfEMP1 that are inserted on the surface of infected erythrocytes, play a key role in the severe pathology associated with infection by the Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasite. These proteins mediate binding of infected cells to the endothelial lining of blood vessels as a strategy to avoid clearance by the spleen and are major targets of naturally acquired immunity. PfEMP1 is encoded by a large multi-gene family called var. Mutually-exclusive transcriptional switching between var genes allows parasites to escape host antibodies. This study examined in detail the patterns of expression of var in a well-characterized sample of parasites from Kenyan Children. Instead of observing clear inverse relationships between the expression of broad sub-classes of PfEMP1, we found that expression of different PfEMP1 groups vary relatively independently. Parasite adaptation to host antibodies also appears to involve a general reduction in detectable var gene expression. We suggest that parasites switch both between different PfEMP1 variants and between high and low expression states. Such a strategy could provide a means of avoiding immunological detection and promoting survival under high levels of host immunity.
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The role of PfEMP1 as targets of naturally acquired immunity to childhood malaria: prospects for a vaccine

The Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 antigens that are inserted onto the surface of P. falciparum infected erythrocytes play a key role both in the pathology of severe malaria and as targets of naturally acquired immunity. They might be considered unlikely vaccine targets because they are extremely diverse. However, several lines of evidence suggest that underneath this molecular diversity there are a restricted set of epitopes which may act as effective targets for a vaccine against severe malaria. Here we review some of the recent developments in this area of research, focusing on work that has assessed the potential of these molecules as possible vaccine targets.
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The role of PfEMP1 as targets of naturally acquired immunity to childhood malaria: prospects for a vaccine

The Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 antigens that are inserted onto the surface of P. falciparum infected erythrocytes play a key role both in the pathology of severe malaria and as targets of naturally acquired immunity. They might be considered unlikely vaccine targets because they are extremely diverse. However, several lines of evidence suggest that underneath this molecular diversity there are a restricted set of epitopes which may act as effective targets for a vaccine against severe malaria. Here we review some of the recent developments in this area of research, focusing on work that has assessed the potential of these molecules as possible vaccine targets.
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A LAIR1 insertion generates broadly reactive antibodies against malaria variant antigens

Plasmodium falciparum antigens expressed on the surface of infected erythrocytes are important targets of naturally acquired immunity against malaria, but their high number and variability provide the pathogen with a powerful means of escape from host antibodies. Although broadly reactive antibodies against these antigens could be useful as therapeutics and in vaccine design, their identification has proven elusive. Here we report the isolation of human monoclonal antibodies that recognize erythrocytes infected by different P. falciparum isolates and opsonize these cells by binding to members of the RIFIN family. These antibodies acquired broad reactivity through a novel mechanism of insertion of a large DNA fragment between the V and DJ segments. The insert, which is both necessary and sufficient for binding to RIFINs, encodes the entire 98 amino acid collagen-binding domain of LAIR1, an immunoglobulin superfamily inhibitory receptor encoded on chromosome 19. In each of the two donors studied, the antibodies are produced by a single expanded B-cell clone and carry distinct somatic mutations in the LAIR1 domain that abolish binding to collagen and increase binding to infected erythrocytes. These findings illustrate, with a biologically relevant example, a novel mechanism of antibody diversification by interchromosomal DNA transposition and demonstrate the existence of conserved epitopes that may be suitable candidates for the development of a malaria vaccine.
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A LAIR1 insertion generates broadly reactive antibodies against malaria variant antigens

Plasmodium falciparum antigens expressed on the surface of infected erythrocytes are important targets of naturally acquired immunity against malaria, but their high number and variability provide the pathogen with a powerful means of escape from host antibodies. Although broadly reactive antibodies against these antigens could be useful as therapeutics and in vaccine design, their identification has proven elusive. Here we report the isolation of human monoclonal antibodies that recognize erythrocytes infected by different P. falciparum isolates and opsonize these cells by binding to members of the RIFIN family. These antibodies acquired broad reactivity through a novel mechanism of insertion of a large DNA fragment between the V and DJ segments. The insert, which is both necessary and sufficient for binding to RIFINs, encodes the entire 98 amino acid collagen-binding domain of LAIR1, an immunoglobulin superfamily inhibitory receptor encoded on chromosome 19. In each of the two donors studied, the antibodies are produced by a single expanded B-cell clone and carry distinct somatic mutations in the LAIR1 domain that abolish binding to collagen and increase binding to infected erythrocytes. These findings illustrate, with a biologically relevant example, a novel mechanism of antibody diversification by interchromosomal DNA transposition and demonstrate the existence of conserved epitopes that may be suitable candidates for the development of a malaria vaccine.
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