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

J Immunol. 2006 Nov 15;177(10):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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alleles
  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood*
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Fetal Blood / immunology
  • Fetal Blood / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Malaria, Falciparum / immunology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1 / genetics
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1 / immunology*
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / immunology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Parasitic / parasitology
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / immunology*
  • Prenatal Exposure Delayed Effects / parasitology*
  • Prospective Studies


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1