close Icon

Prenatal malaria immune experience affects acquisition of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein-1 invasion inhibitory antibodies during infancy.

Dent A, Malhotra I, Mungai P, Muchiri E, Crabb BS, Kazura JW, King CL

  • Journal Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

  • Published 05 Jan 2007

  • Volume 177

  • ISSUE 10

  • Pagination 7139-45

  • DOI 10.4049/jimmunol.177.10.7139


African infants are often born of mothers infected with malaria during pregnancy. This can result in fetal exposure to malaria-infected erythrocytes or their soluble products with subsequent fetal immune priming or tolerance in utero. We performed a cohort study of 30 newborns from a malaria holoendemic area of Kenya to determine whether T cell sensitization to Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein-1 (MSP-1) at birth correlates with infant development of anti-MSP-1 Abs acquired as a consequence of natural malaria infection. Abs to the 42- and 19-kDa C-terminal processed fragments of MSP-1 were determined by serology and by a functional assay that quantifies invasion inhibition Abs against the MSP-1(19) merozoite ligand (MSP-1(19) IIA). Infants had detectable IgG and IgM Abs to MSP-1(42) and MSP-1(19) at 6 mo of age with no significant change by age 24-30 mo. In contrast, MSP-1(19) IIA levels increased from 6 to 24-30 mo of age (16-29%, p < 0.01). Infants with evidence of prenatal exposure to malaria (defined by P. falciparum detection in maternal, placental, and/or cord blood compartments) and T cell sensitization at birth (defined by cord blood lymphocyte cytokine responses to MSP-1) showed the greatest age-related increase in MSP-1(19) IIA compared with infants with prenatal exposure to malaria but who lacked detectable T cell MSP-1 sensitization. These data suggest that fetal sensitization or tolerance to MSP-1, associated with maternal malaria infection during pregnancy, affects the development of functional Ab responses to MSP-1 during infancy.