Towards a comprehensive Plasmodium falciparum merozoite cell surface and secreted recombinant protein library

Zenon A Zenonos, Julian C Rayner, Gavin J Wright

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BACKGROUND: Plasmodium falciparum is the aetiological agent for malaria, a deadly infectious disease for which no vaccine has yet been licensed. The proteins displayed on the merozoite cell surface have long been considered attractive vaccine targets because of their direct exposure to host antibodies; however, progress in understanding the functional role of these targets has been hindered by technical challenges associated with expressing these proteins in a functionally active recombinant form. To address this, a method that enables the systematic expression of functional extracellular Plasmodium proteins was previously developed, and used to create a library of 42 merozoite proteins. METHODS: To compile a more comprehensive library of recombinant proteins representing the repertoire of P. falciparum merozoite extracellular proteins for systematic vaccine and functional studies, genome-wide expression profiling was used to identify additional candidates. Candidate proteins were recombinantly produced and their integrity and expression levels were tested by Western blotting and ELISA. RESULTS: Twenty-five additional genes that were upregulated during late schizogony, and predicted to encode secreted and cell surface proteins, were identified and expressed as soluble recombinant proteins. A band consistent with the entire ectodomain was observed by immunoblotting for the majority of the proteins and their expression levels were quantified. By using sera from malaria-exposed immune adults, the immunoreactivity of 20 recombinant proteins was assessed, and most of the merozoite ligands were found to carry heat-labile epitopes. To facilitate systematic comparative studies across the entire library, multiple Plasmodium proteins were simultaneously purified using a custom-made platform. CONCLUSIONS: A library of recombinant P. falciparum secreted and cell surface proteins was expanded by 20 additional proteins, which were shown to express at usable levels and contain conformational epitopes. This resource of extracellular P. falciparum merozoite proteins, which now contains 62 full-length ectodomains, will be a valuable tool in elucidating the function of these proteins during the blood stages of infection, and facilitate the comparative assessment of blood stage vaccine candidates.
Original languageEnglish
Article number93
Publication statusPublished - 12 Mar 2014


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