A cysteine-containing peptide motif, EWSPCSVTCG, is found highly conserved in the circumsporozoite protein (CSP) and the thrombospondin- related anonymous protein (TRAP) of all the Plasmodium species analyzed so far and has been shown to be crucially involved in the sporozoite invasion of hepatocytes. We have recently shown that peptide sequences containing this motif, and also the antibodies raised against the motif, inhibit the merozoite invasion of erythrocytes. However, during natural infection, and upon immunization with recombinant CSP, this motif represents a cryptic epitope. Here we present the results of immunization studies with two linear multiepitopic constructs, a 60-residue (P60) and a 32-residue (P32) peptide, containing the conserved motif sequence. Both the peptides per se generated high levels of specific antibodies in BALB/c mice. P32 was found to be genetically restricted to//-2(d) and H-2b haplotypes of mice, whereas P60 was found to be immunogenic in five different strains of mice. The antibody response was predominantly targeted to the otherwise cryptic, conserved motif sequence in P60. Anti-P60 antibodies specifically stained the asexual blood stages of Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium yoelii in an immunofluorescence assay, recognized a 60- to 65-kDa parasite protein in an immunoblot assay, and blocked P. falciparum merozoite invasion of erythrocytes in a dose-dependent manner. Immunization with P60 also induced significant levels of the cytokines interleukin-2 (IL-2), IL-4, and gamma interferon in BALB/c mice. Moreover, >60% of mice immunized with P60 survived a heterologous challenge infection with a lethal Strain of P. yoelii. These results indicate that appropriate medium-sized synthetic peptides might prove useful in generating specific immune responses to an otherwise cryptic but critical and putatively protective epitope in an antigen and could form part of a multicomponent malaria vaccine.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Infectious Diseases