Plasmodium vivax is the most widespread and the second most prevalent malaria-causing species in the world. Current measures used to control the transmission of this disease would benefit from the development of an efficacious vaccine. In the case of the deadly parasite P. falciparum, the recombinant RTS,S vaccine containing the circumsporozoite antigen (CSP) consistently protects 30 to 50% of human volunteers against infection and is undergoing phase III clinical trials in Africa with similar efficacy. These findings encouraged us to develop a P. vivax vaccine containing the three circulating allelic forms of P. vivax CSP. Toward this goal, we generated three recombinant bacterial proteins representing the CSP alleles, as well as a hybrid polypeptide called PvCSP-All-CSP-epitopes. This hybrid contains the conserved N and C termini of P. vivax CSP and the three variant repeat domains in tandem. We also generated simian and human recombinant replication-defective adenovirus vectors expressing PvCSP-All-CSP-epitopes. Mice immunized with the mixture of recombinant proteins in a formulation containing the adjuvant poly(I·C) developed high and long-lasting serum IgG titers comparable to those elicited by proteins emulsified in complete Freund's adjuvant. Antibody titers were similar in mice immunized with homologous (protein-protein) and heterologous (adenovirus-protein) vaccine regimens. The antibodies recognized the three allelic forms of CSP, reacted to the repeated and nonrepeated regions of CSP, and recognized sporozoites expressing the alleles VK210 and VK247. The vaccine formulations described in this work should be useful for the further development of an anti-P. vivax vaccine.
Immunization of BALB/c mice with irradiated sporozoites (IrSp) of Plasmodium yoelii can lead to sterile immunity. The circumsporozoite protein (CSP) plays a dominant role in protection. Nevertheless after hyper-immunization with IrSp, complete protection is obtained in CSP-transgenic BALB/c mice that are T-cell tolerant to the CSP and cannot produce antibodies [CSP-Tg/JhT(-/-)]. This protection is mediated exclusively by CD8(+) T cells . To identify the non-CSP protective T cell antigens, we studied the properties of 34 P. yoelii sporozoite antigens that are predicted to be secreted and to contain strong Kd-restricted CD8(+) T cell epitopes. The synthetic peptides corresponding to the epitopes were used to screen for the presence of peptide-specific CD8(+) T cells secreting interferon-? (IFN-?) in splenocytes from CSP-Tg/JhT(-/-) BALB/c mice hyper immunized with IrSp. However, the numbers of IFN-?-secreting splenocytes specific for the non-CSP antigen-derived peptides were 20-100 times lower than those specific for the CSP-specific peptide. When mice were immunized with recombinant adenoviruses expressing selected non-CSP antigens, the animals were not protected against challenge with P. yoelii sporozoites although large numbers of CD8(+) specific T cells were generated.
Recently, we described the improved immunogenicity of new malaria vaccine candidates based on the expression of fusion proteins containing immunodominant epitopes of merozoites and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium flagellin (FliC) protein as an innate immune agonist. Here, we tested whether a similar strategy, based on an immunodominant B-cell epitope from malaria sporozoites, could also generate immunogenic fusion polypeptides. A recombinant His6-tagged FliC protein containing the C-terminal repeat regions of the VK210 variant of Plasmodium vivax circumsporozoite (CS) protein was constructed. This recombinant protein was successfully expressed in Escherichia coli as soluble protein and was purified by affinity to Ni-agarose beads followed by ion exchange chromatography. A monoclonal antibody specific for the CS protein of P. vivax sporozoites (VK210) was able to recognise the purified protein. C57BL/6 mice subcutaneously immunised with the recombinant fusion protein in the absence of any conventional adjuvant developed protein-specific systemic antibody responses. However, in mice genetically deficient in expression of TLR5, this immune response was extremely low. These results extend our previous observations concerning the immunogenicity of these recombinant fusion proteins and provide evidence that the main mechanism responsible for this immune activation involves interactions with TLR5, which has not previously been demonstrated for any recombinant FliC fusion protein.
Sporozoites, the invasive form of malaria parasites transmitted by mosquitoes, are quiescent while in the insect salivary glands. Sporozoites only differentiate inside of the hepatocytes of the mammalian host. We show that sporozoite latency is an active process controlled by a eukaryotic initiation factor-2alpha (eIF2alpha) kinase (IK2) and a phosphatase. IK2 activity is dominant in salivary gland sporozoites, leading to an inhibition of translation and accumulation of stalled mRNAs into granules. When sporozoites are injected into the mammalian host, an eIF2alpha phosphatase removes the PO4 from eIF2alpha-P, and the repression of translation is alleviated to permit their transformation into liver stages. In IK2 knockout sporozoites, eIF2alpha is not phosphorylated and the parasites transform prematurely into liver stages and lose their infectivity. Thus, to complete their life cycle, Plasmodium sporozoites exploit the mechanism that regulates stress responses in eukaryotic cells.
Nitrogen-containing bisphosphonates, drugs used to treat bone resorption diseases, also have activity against a broad range of protists, including blood-stage Plasmodium spp. Here, we show that new-generation "lipophilic" bisphosphonates designed as anticancer agents that block protein prenylation also have potent activity against Plasmodium liver stages, with a high (>100) therapeutic index. Treatment of mice with the bisphosphonate BPH-715 and challenge with Plasmodium berghei sporozoites revealed complete protection (no blood-stage parasites after 28 days). There was also activity against blood-stage forms in vitro and a 4-day delay in the prepatent period in vivo. The lipophilic bisphosphonates have activity against a Plasmodium geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthase (GGPPS), as well as low nM activity against human farnesyl and geranylgeranyl diphosphate synthases. The most active inhibitor in vitro and in vivo had enzyme inhibitory activity similar to that of the other, less active compounds but was more lipophilic. Lipophilic bisphosphonates are thus promising leads for novel antimalarials that target liver-stage infection.
There is yet no licensed vaccine against malaria, a serious human disease affecting mostly children, with an annual death rate of about one million. Plasmodia, the malaria-causing parasites, have two obligatory hosts: mammals or birds, in which they multiply asexually, and mosquitoes with sexual multiplication. The most common and serious type of malaria is caused by Plasmodium falciparum. The circumsporozoite protein (CSP), a major surface antigen of sporozoites, is a protective antigen. A unique feature of P. falciparum CSP is its large central domain composed of over 30 tetrapeptide repeats of Asn-Ala-Asn-Pro (NANP). Several NANP peptide-protein conjugates were tested clinically but elicited a low level of CSP antibodies for a short duration. To provide a CSP-based candidate vaccine, we investigated recombinant CSP and NANP conjugates of various peptide lengths, with different N-terminal amino acids, bound at different ratios to various carrier proteins. Injected into mice, CSP alone and CSP or NANP conjugates induced antibodies with booster responses and were positive by the sporozoite immunofluorescent assay. The use of the mosquito stage P. falciparum ookinete surface protein, Pfs25, cross-linked onto itself as a carrier for NANP, induced in mice high levels of uniquely long-lasting antibodies to both vaccine components with secondary biological activities, that will provide immunity to liver infection by sporozoites and block transmission by mosquitoes.
Immunization with radiation attenuated Plasmodium sporozoites (RAS) elicits sterile protective immunity against sporozoite challenge in murine models and in humans. Similarly to RAS, the genetically attenuated sporozoites (GAPs) named uis3(-), uis4(-) and P36p(-) have arrested growth during the liver stage development, and generate a powerful protective immune response in mice. We compared the protective mechanisms in P. yoelii RAS, uis3(-) and uis4(-) in BALB/c mice. In RAS and GAPs, sterile immunity is only achieved after one or more booster injections. There were no differences in the immune responses to the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) generated by RAS and GAPs. To evaluate the role of non-CSP T-cell antigens we immunized antibody deficient, CSP-transgenic BALB/c mice, that are T cell tolerant to CSP, with P. yoelii RAS or with uis3(-) or uis4(-) GAPs, and challenged them with wild type sporozoites. In every instance the parasite liver stage burden was approximately 3 logs higher in antibody deficient CSP transgenic mice as compared to antibody deficient mice alone. We conclude that CSP is a powerful protective antigen in both RAS and GAPs viz., uis3(-) and uis4(-) and that the protective mechanisms are similar independently of the method of sporozoite attenuation.
The life cycles of apicomplexan parasites such as Plasmodium spp. and Toxoplasma gondii are complex, consisting of proliferative and latent stages within multiple hosts. Dramatic transformations take place during the cycles, and they demand precise control of gene expression at all levels, including translation. This review focuses on the mechanisms that regulate translational control in Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, with a particular emphasis on the phosphorylation of the ? subunit of eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2 (eIF2?). Phosphorylation of eIF2? (eIF2??P) is a conserved mechanism that eukaryotic cells use to repress global protein synthesis while enhancing gene-specific translation of a subset of mRNAs. Elevated levels of eIF2??P have been observed during latent stages in both Toxoplasma and Plasmodium, indicating that translational control plays a role in maintaining dormancy. Parasite-specific eIF2? kinases and phosphatases are also required for proper developmental transitions and adaptation to cellular stresses encountered during the life cycle. Identification of small-molecule inhibitors of apicomplexan eIF2? kinases may selectively interfere with parasite translational control and lead to the development of new therapies to treat malaria and toxoplasmosis.
Biomaterials that modulate innate and adaptive immune responses are receiving increasing interest as adjuvants for eliciting protective immunity against a variety of diseases. Previous results have indicated that self-assembling ?-sheet peptides, when fused with short peptide epitopes, can act as effective adjuvants and elicit robust and long-lived antibody responses. Here we investigated the mechanism of immunogenicity and the quality of antibody responses raised by a peptide epitope from Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite (CS) protein, (NANP)(3),conjugated to the self-assembling peptide domain Q11. The mechanism of adjuvant action was investigated in knockout mice with impaired MyD88, NALP3, TLR-2, or TLR-5 function, and the quality of antibodies raised against (NANP)(3)-Q11 was assessed using a transgenic sporozoite neutralizing (TSN) assay for malaria infection. (NANP)(3)-Q11 self-assembled into nanofibers, and antibody responses lasted up to 40 weeks in C57BL/6 mice. The antibody responses were T cell- and MyD88-dependent. Sera from mice primed with either irradiated sporozoites or a synthetic peptide, (T1BT*)(4)-P3C, and boosted with (NANP)(3)-Q11 showed significant increases in antibody titers and significant inhibition of sporozoite infection in TSN assays. In addition, two different epitopes could be self-assembled together without compromising the strength or duration of the antibody responses raised against either of them, making these materials promising platforms for self-adjuvanting multi-antigenic immunotherapies.
In response to environmental stresses, the mammalian serine threonine kinases PERK, GCN2, HRI, and PKR phosphorylate the regulatory serine 51 of the eukaryotic translation initiation factor 2? (eIF2?) to inhibit global protein synthesis. Plasmodium, the protozoan that causes malaria, expresses three eIF2? kinases: IK1, IK2, and PK4. Like GCN2, IK1 regulates stress response to amino acid starvation. IK2 inhibits development of malaria sporozoites present in the mosquito salivary glands. Here we show that the phosphorylation by PK4 of the regulatory serine 59 of Plasmodium eIF2? is essential for the completion of the parasites erythrocytic cycle that causes disease in humans. PK4 activity leads to the arrest of global protein synthesis in schizonts, where ontogeny of daughter merozoites takes place, and in gametocytes that infect Anopheles mosquitoes. The implication of these findings is that drugs that reduce PK4 activity should alleviate disease and inhibit malaria transmission.
Plasmodium sporozoites are deposited in the skin of the mammalian host by Anopheles mosquitoes. To continue the life cycle, the sporozoites have to invade the hosts hepatocytes, where they transform into exoerythrocytic forms (EEFs) inside a parasitophorous vacuole. During their route from the skin to the liver, the parasites traverse the capillary epithelium in the dermis to enter the blood circulation, and cross the endothelium of liver sinusoids to enter the parenchyma. Cell traversal by sporozoites is usually measured by quantifying dyes that enter or are released from cells during incubation with salivary gland sporozoites. These methods do not distinguish cell traversal from cell wounding. Here we validate an assay that quantifies cell traversal of sporozoites through monolayers of MDCK cells that form tight junctions. We compared cell traversal of wt sporozoites and of parasites lacking the Type I membrane protein TLP (TRAP-like protein) previously implicated in cell traversal. We provide direct evidence that TLP ko sporozoites are defective in cell traversal and that they are retained inside the MDCK cytoplasm. We then used the MDCK assay to study the effect of a monoclonal antibody (3D11) to the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) on the parasites cell traversal. We show that 3D11 inhibits cell traversal at nanomolar concentrations. We conclude that antibodies elicited by CSP-based vaccines are likely to inhibit the migration of sporozoites from the skin to the liver.
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