NIH Research Festival
Transmission-blocking vaccines are based on eliciting antibody responses in the vertebrate host that disrupt parasite development in the mosquito vector and prevent malaria transmission. The surface protein Pfs47 is present in Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes and female gametes. The potential of Pfs47 as a vaccine target was evaluated. Soluble full-length recombinant protein, consisting of three domains, was expressed in E. coli as a thioredoxin fusion (T-Pfs47). The protein was immunogenic, and polyclonal and monoclonal antibodies (mAb) were obtained, but they did not confer transmission blocking activity (TBA). All fourteen mAb targeted either domains 1 or 3, but not domain 2 (D2), and immune reactivity to D2 was also very low in polyclonal mouse IgG after T-Pfs47 immunization. Disruption of the predicted disulfide bond in D2, by replacing cysteines for alanines (C230A and C260A), allowed expression of recombinant D2 protein in E. coli. A combination of mAbs targeting D2, and deletion proteins from this domain, allowed us to map a central 52 amino acid (aa) region where antibody binding confers strong TBA (78-99%). This 52 aa antigen is immunogenic and well conserved, with only seven haplotypes world-wide that share 96–98% identity. Neither human complement nor the mosquito complement-like system are required for the observed TBA. A dramatic reduction in ookinete numbers and ookinete-specific transcripts was observed, suggesting that the antibodies are interacting with female gametocytes and preventing fertilization.
Scientific Focus Area: Microbiology and Infectious Diseases
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