Temporal variation of the merozoite surface protein-2 gene of Plasmodium falciparum

Damon Eisen, Helen Billman-Jacobe, Vikki F. Marshall, Dave Fryauff, Ross L. Coppel

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Extensive polymorphism of key parasite antigens is likely to hamper the effectiveness of subunit vaccines against Plasmodium falciparum infection. However, little is known about the extent of the antigenic repertoire of naturally circulating strains in different areas where malaria is endemic. To address this question, we conducted a study in which blood samples were collected from parasitemic individuals living within a small hamlet in Western Irian Jaya and subjected to PCR amplification using primers that would allow amplification of the gene encoding merozoite surface protein-2 (MSP2). We determined the nucleotide sequence of the amplified product and compared the deduced amino acid sequences to sequences obtained from samples collected in the same hamlet 29 months previously. MSP2 genes belonging to both major allelic families were observed at both time points. In the case of the FC27 MSP2 family, we observed that the majority of individuals were infected by parasites expressing the same form of MSP2. Infections with parasites expressing 3D7 MSP2 family alleles were more heterogeneous. No MSP2 alleles observed at the earlier time point were detectable at the later time point, either for the population as a whole or for individuals who were assayed at both time points. We examined a subset of the infected patients by using blood samples taken between the two major surveys. In no patients could we detect reinfection by a parasite expressing a previously encountered form of MSP2. Our results are consistent with the possibility that infection induces a form of strain-specific immune response against the MSP2 antigen that biases against reinfection by parasites bearing identical forms of MSP2.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)239-246
Number of pages8
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jan 1998

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