Characterization of Plasmodium berghei Pbg37 as both a pre- and postfertilization antigen with transmission-blocking potential

Fei Liu, Li Li, Wenqi Zheng, Yiwen He, Yaru Wang, Xiaotong Zhu, Takafumi Tsuboi, Liwang Cui, Meilian Wang, Yaming Cao

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12 Scopus citations


Transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs) interrupting malaria transmission are an integrated tool for malaria eradication. We characterized a sexual-stagespecific gene (PBANKA_060330) from Plasmodium berghei and studied its potential for use as a TBV. This gene, referred to as pbg37, encodes a protein of 37 kDa with a signal peptide and multiple transmembrane domains and is preferentially expressed in gametocytes. A recombinant Pbg37 (rPbg37) protein targeting the N-terminal 63 amino acids (amino acids 26 to 88) expressed in bacteria elicited strong antibody responses in mice. Western blotting demonstrated Pbg37 expression in gametocytes, zygotes, and, to a lesser extent, ookinetes and its predominant association with the membranes of gametocytes. Indirect immunofluorescence assay showed an abundant surface localization of Pbg37 on gametes and zygotes but reduced amounts on retorts and ookinetes. Knockout of pbg37 (Δpbg37) led to a considerable reduction in gametocytemia, which translated into a ~92.1% decrease in the oocyst number in mosquitoes. Deletion of pbg37 had a more substantial influence on the development and maturation of microgametocytes. As a result, the Δpbg37 lines exhibited a higher female/male gametocyte ratio, fewer mature male gametocytes, and defects in the exflagellation of mature microgametocytes. To test the transmission-blocking potential of Pbg37, an in vitro ookinete assay showed that the major inhibitory effects of anti-Pbg37 antiserum were on the exflagellation and fertilization processes. Direct feeding of mosquitoes on mice immunized with rPbg37 or a control protein showed that rPbg37-immunized and P. berghei-infected mice had a significant reduction (49.1%) in oocyst density compared to the controls. The conservation of this gene in Plasmodium warrants further investigations in human malaria parasites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere00785-17
JournalInfection and Immunity
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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