Infection with Plasmodium berghei boosts antibody responses primed by a DNA vaccine encoding gametocyte antigen Pbs48/45

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Infection and Immunity








An important consideration in the development of a malaria vaccine for individuals living in areas of endemicity is whether vaccine-elicited immune responses can be boosted by natural infection. To investigate this question, we used Plasmodium berghei ANKA blood-stage parasites for the infection of mice that were previously immunized with a DNA vaccine encoding the P. berghei sexual-stage antigen Pbs48/45. Intramuscular immunization in mice with one or two doses of DNA-Pbs48/45 or of empty DNA vaccine as control did not elicit detectable anti-Pbs48/45 antibodies as determined by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. An infection with P. berghei ANKA 6 weeks after DNA vaccination elicited comparable anti-Pbs48/45 antibody levels in mice which had been primed with DNA-Pbs48/45 or with empty DNA vaccine. However, a repeat infection with P. berghei ANKA resulted in significantly higher anti-Pbs48/45 antibody levels in mice which had been primed with the DNA-Pbs48/45 vaccine than the levels in the mock DNA-vaccinated mice. In parallel and as an additional control to distinguish the boosting of Pbs48/45 antibodies exclusively by gametocytes during infection, a separate group of mice primed with DNA-Pbs48/45 received an infection with P. berghei ANKA clone 2.33, which was previously described as a "nongametocyte producer." To our surprise, this parasite clone too elicited antibody levels comparable to those induced by the P. berghei gametocyte producer clone. We further demonstrate that the nongametocyte producer P. berghei clone is in fact a defective gametocyte producer that expresses Pbs48/45, much like the gametocyte producer clone, and is therefore capable of boosting antibody levels to Pbs48/45. Taken together, these results indicate that vaccine-primed antibodies can be boosted during repeat infections and warrant further investigation with additional malaria antigens. Copyright © 2006, American Society for Microbiology. All Rights Reserved.