Publications & Reports

Antibodies to Intercellular Adhesion Molecule 1-Binding Plasmodium falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1-DBLbeta Are Biomarkers of Protective Immunity to Malaria in a Cohort of Young Children from Papua New Guinea.

Sofonias K Tessema, Digjaya Utama, Olga Chesnokov, Anthony N Hodder, Clara S Lin, G L Abby Harrison, Jakob S Jespersen, Bent Petersen, Livingstone Tavul, Peter Siba, Dominic Kwiatkowski, Thomas Lavstsen, Diana S Hansen, Andrew V Oleinikov, Ivo Mueller, Alyssa E Barry
The Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Victoria, Australia.


Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) mediates parasite sequestration to the cerebral microvasculature via binding of DBLbeta domains to intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM1) and is associated with severe cerebral malaria. In a cohort of 187 young children from Papua New Guinea (PNG), we examined baseline levels of antibody to the ICAM1-binding PfEMP1 domain, DBLbeta3PF11_0521, in comparison to four control antigens, including NTS-DBLalpha and CIDR1 domains from another group A variant and a group B/C variant. Antibody levels for the group A antigens were strongly associated with age and exposure. Antibody responses to DBLbeta3PF11_0521 were associated with a 37% reduced risk of high-density clinical malaria in the follow-up period (adjusted incidence risk ratio [aIRR] = 0.63 [95% confidence interval {CI}, 0.45 to 0.88; P = 0.007]) and a 25% reduction in risk of low-density clinical malaria (aIRR = 0.75 [95% CI, 0.55 to 1.01; P = 0.06]), while there was no such association for other variants. Children who experienced severe malaria also had significantly lower levels of antibody to DBLbeta3PF11_0521 and the other group A domains than those that experienced nonsevere malaria. Furthermore, a subset of PNG DBLbeta sequences had ICAM1-binding motifs, formed a distinct phylogenetic cluster, and were similar to sequences from other areas of endemicity. PfEMP1 variants associated with these DBLbeta domains were enriched for DC4 and DC13 head structures implicated in endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR) binding and severe malaria, suggesting conservation of dual binding specificities. These results provide further support for the development of specific classes of PfEMP1 as vaccine candidates and as biomarkers for protective immunity against clinical P. falciparum malaria.


  • Journal: Infection and Immunity
  • Published: 01/08/2018
  • Volume: 86
  • Issue: 8