Differential antibody recognition of four allelic variants of the merozoite surface protein-2 (MSP-2) of Plasmodium falciparum

J Eukaryot Microbiol. Sep-Oct 2001;48(5):556-64. doi: 10.1111/j.1550-7408.2001.tb00191.x.


The merozoite surface protein-2 (MSP-2) is a major vaccine candidate for the asexual blood stage of Plasmodium falciparum. MSP-2 is essentially dimorphic, and allelic families are named after the representative isolates FC27 and IC1. The polymorphic central region contains immunodominant repeats, which vary in number, length, and sequence within and between allelic families. We have examined the antibody recognition of repeat regions from both MSP-2 allelic families expressed as recombinant fusion peptides. The results are summarized as follows. (1) Immunization of mice with the fusion peptides elicited IgG antibodies that cross-reacted with the native MSP-2 molecule in an allelic family-specific manner. (2) These mouse antibodies recognized the recombinant proteins in both a variant-specific and a family-specific manner, as shown in inhibition immunoassays. Antibodies raised against the peptide FC27 seemed to be essentially variant-specific, since the soluble form of the S20 antigen (a member of FC27 family) had relatively little inhibitory effect on them. (3) The overall pattern of human IgG antibody responses to MSP-2 in Karitiana Indians, a population continuously exposed to hypoendemic malaria in the Brazilian Amazon Region, differs from that described in hyperendemic areas in Africa and Papua New Guinea in two important features: there was no clear age-dependent increase in the prevalence and mean concentration of specific IgG antibodies, and there was no skewing towards the IgG3 subclass in antibody responses. (4) The relatively poor correlation between concentrations of IgG antibodies that are specific for members of the same allelic family suggests that recognition of MSP-2 peptides by naturally acquired antibodies was largely variant-specific in this population. The potential role of naturally acquired variant-specific antibodies in immune evasion, by selecting mutant parasites carrying insertions or deletions of repeat sequences, is briefly discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / classification
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology*
  • Antigenic Variation*
  • Antigens, Protozoan / chemistry
  • Antigens, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology*
  • Brazil
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cross Reactions
  • Humans
  • Immunization
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin G / classification
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Indians, South American
  • Infant
  • Malaria Vaccines / immunology
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Middle Aged
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Peptides / immunology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Protozoan Proteins / immunology*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / immunology


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Malaria Vaccines
  • Peptides
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • merozoite surface protein 2, Plasmodium