A single parasite gene determines strain-specific protective immunity against malaria: The role of the merozoite surface protein I

Sandra Cheesman, Elaine O'Mahony, Sittiporn Pattaradilokrat, Kathryn Degnan, Sara Knott, Richard Carter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Despite many decades of research, no registered vaccine against the pathogenic blood stages of the malaria parasite exists, translating into the loss of many hundreds of thousands of young lives each year in tropical Africa. Although many parasite proteins have been shown to induce immune responses in the host, proof for their induction of protective immunity is still lacking. We previously reported a novel genetic approach called linkage group selection (LGS) for rapid identification of target antigens of strain-specific protective immunity (SSPI) against malaria. In preliminary LGS experiments, we crossed two genetically distinct strains of Plasmodium chabaudi chabaudi and subjected their progeny to selection in strain-specifically immunised mice, measuring the effects of SSPI selection with low coverage/resolution genetic markers. In the present study, through application of high coverage/resolution, single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers spanning all 14 parasite chromosomes, we analysed 35 SSPI selection events on different populations of progeny parasites. Here we report a comprehensive high resolution genome-wide analysis of the effects of strain-specific immune selection on blood stage parasites. Our analyses consistently identify a single genomic region spanning similar to 79 kb on chromosome 8 as the region controlling SSPI. Within this region, one gene (that of merozoite surface protein 1. MSP-1) accounted for >60% of genetic polymorphism and was most frequently under greatest reduction under SSPI. These results, combined with those of an independent LGS analysis of a different genetic cross with different parental strains, demonstrate that more than any other locus, the gene for MSP-1 determines the effect of strain-specific protective immunity against malaria in these host-parasite combinations. Our results provide unique insight into the precise timing of the parasite killing immune response against progeny parasites carrying specific alleles of MSP-1; these findings pave the way for investigating which part(s) of this highly polymorphic molecule mediate the protective immune response. 

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)951-961
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal For Parasitology
Issue number8
Early online date12 Feb 2010
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2010


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