Liposome engraftment and antigen combination potentiate the immune response towards conserved epitopes of the malaria vaccine candidate MSP2

Sreedam C. Das, Jason D. Price, Katharine Gosling, Nicola MacLennan, Ricardo Ataíde, Jeffrey Seow, Vashti Irani, Ines I. Atmosukarto, Robin F. Anders, Jack S. Richards, Christopher A. MacRaild, Raymond S. Norton

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1 Citation (Scopus)


Merozoite surface protein 2 (MSP2) is a highly abundant, GPI-anchored surface antigen on merozoites of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. It consists of highly conserved N- and C-terminal domains, and a central polymorphic region that allows all MSP2 alleles to be categorized into the 3D7 or FC27 family. Previously it has been shown that epitope accessibility differs between lipid-bound and lipid-free MSP2, suggesting that lipid interactions modulate the conformation and antigenicity in a way that may better mimic native MSP2 on the merozoite surface. Therefore, we have immunised mice with MSP2 engrafted onto liposomes using a C-terminal tether that mimics the native GPI anchor. To improve the immunogenicity of the formulated antigen, liposomes were supplemented with Pathogen Associated Molecular Pattern molecules, specifically agonists of the Toll-like receptor 4 (TLR4) or TLR2. Induced antibodies were directed mostly towards conserved epitopes, predominantly in the conserved C-terminal region of MSP2. We also found that immunisation with a combination of 3D7 and FC27 MSP2 enhanced antibody responses to conserved epitopes, and that the overall responses of mice immunised with MSP2-engrafted liposomes were comparable in magnitude to those of mice immunised with MSP2 formulated in Montanide ISA720. The antibodies elicited in mice by immunising with MSP2-engrafted liposomes recognised the native form of parasite MSP2 on western blots and were found to be cross-reactive with isolated 3D7 and FC27 merozoites when investigated by ELISA. The liposome-tethered MSP2 induced higher titres of complement-fixing antibodies to 3D7 and FC27 MSP2 than did MSP2 formulated in Montanide ISA720. Our results indicate that liposomal formulation represents a viable strategy for eliciting a strong immune response that favours conserved epitopes in MSP2 and thus a strain-transcendent immune response.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1746-1757
Number of pages12
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 19 Mar 2021


  • Complement fixation
  • Conserved epitope
  • Immune response
  • Liposome
  • Malaria
  • Merozoite surface protein 2

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