A model to study the impact of polymorphism driven liver-stage immune evasion by malaria parasites, to help design effective cross-reactive vaccines

Kirsty L. Wilson, Sue D. Xiang, Magdalena Plebanski

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14 Citations (Scopus)


Malaria parasites engage a multitude of strategies to evade the immune system of the host, including the generation of polymorphic T cell epitope sequences, termed altered peptide ligands (APLs). Herein we use an animal model to study how single amino acid changes in the sequence of the circumsporozoite protein (CSP), a major target antigen of pre-erythrocytic malaria vaccines, can lead to a reduction of cross reactivity by T cells. For the first time in any APL model, we further compare different inflammatory adjuvants (Montanide, Poly I:C), non-inflammatory adjuvants (nanoparticles), and peptide pulsed dendritic cells (DCs) for their potential capacity to induce broadly cross reactive immune responses. Results show that the capacity to induce a cross reactive response is primarily controlled by the T cell epitope sequence and cannot be modified by the use of different adjuvants. Moreover, we identify how specific amino acid changes lead to a one-way cross reactivity: Where variant-x induced responses are re-elicited by variant-x and not variant-y, but variant-y induced responses can be re-elicited by variant-y and variant-x. We discuss the consequences of the existence of this one-way cross reactivity phenomenon for parasite immune evasion in the field, as well as the use of variant epitopes as a potential tool for optimized vaccine design.

Original languageEnglish
Article number303
JournalFrontiers in Microbiology
Issue numberMAR
Publication statusPublished - 11 Mar 2016


  • Altered peptide ligands
  • CD8 epitope
  • Circumsporozoite protein
  • Cross reactivity
  • Polymorphism
  • Vaccines

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