Kinetics of B Cell responses to Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 in Ghanaian women naturally exposed to malaria parasites

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Naturally acquired protective immunity to Plasmodium falciparum malaria takes years to develop. It relies mainly on Abs, particularly IgG specific for Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) proteins on the infected erythrocyte surface. It is only partially understood why acquisition of clinical protection takes years to develop, but it probably involves a range of immune-evasive parasite features, not least of which are PfEMP1 polymorphism and clonal variation. Parasite-induced subversion of immunological memory and expansion of "atypical" memory B cells may also contribute. In this first, to our knowledge, longitudinal study of its kind, we measured B cell subset composition, as well as PfEMP1-specific Ab levels and memory B cell frequencies, in Ghanaian women followed from early pregnancy up to 1 y after delivery. Cell phenotypes and Ag-specific B cell function were assessed three times during and after pregnancy. Levels of IgG specific for pregnancy-restricted, VAR2CSA-type PfEMP1 increased markedly during pregnancy and declined after delivery, whereas IgG levels specific for two PfEMP1 proteins not restricted to pregnancy did not. Changes in VAR2CSA-specific memory B cell frequencies showed typical primary memory induction among primigravidae and recall expansion among multigravidae, followed by contraction postpartum in all. No systematic changes in the frequencies of memory B cells specific for the two other PfEMP1 proteins were identified. The B cell subset analysis confirmed earlier reports of high atypical memory B cell frequencies among residents of P. falciparum-endemic areas, and indicated an additional effect of pregnancy. Our study provides new knowledge regarding immunity to P. falciparum malaria and underpins efforts to develop PfEMP1-based vaccines against this disease.

Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Immunology
Issue number11
Pages (from-to)5236-44
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2014

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