Antibodies against multiple merozoite surface antigens of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum inhibit parasite maturation and red blood cell invasion
Background: Plasmodium falciparum merozoites expose at their surface a large protein complex, which is composed of fragments of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP-1; called MSP-1(83), MSP-1(30), MSP-1(38), and MSP-1(42)) plus associated processing products of MSP-6 and MSP-7. During erythrocyte invasion this complex, as well as an integral membrane protein called apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA-1), is shed from the parasite surface following specific proteolysis. Components of the MSP-1/6/7 complex and AMA-1 are presently under development as malaria vaccines. Methods: The specificities and effects of antibodies directed against MSP-1, MSP-6, MSP-7 on the growth of blood stage parasites were studied using ELISA and the pLDH-assay. To understand the mode of action of these antibodies, their effects on processing of MSP-1 and AMA-1 on the surface of merozoites were investigated. Results: Antibodies targeting epitopes located throughout the MSP-1/6/7 complex interfere with shedding of MSP-1, and as a consequence prevent erythrocyte invasion. Antibodies targeting the MSP-1/6/7 complex have no effect on the processing and shedding of AMA-1 and, similarly, antibodies blocking the shedding of AMA-1 do not affect cleavage of MSP-1, suggesting completely independent functions of these proteins during invasion. Furthermore, some epitopes, although eliciting highly inhibitory antibodies, are only poorly recognized by the immune system when presented in the structural context of the intact antigen. Conclusions: The findings reported provide further support for the development of vaccines based on MSP-1/6/7 and AMA-1, which would possibly include a combination of these antigens.
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