Production of the 42-kDa fragment of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite surface protein 1, a leading malaria vaccine antigen, in Arabidopsis thaliana seeds

Plant Biotechnol J. 2010 Dec;8(9):994-1004. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-7652.2010.00526.x.


Malaria is widely associated with poverty, and a low-cost vaccine against malaria is highly desirable for implementing comprehensive vaccination programmes in developing countries. Production of malaria antigens in plants is a promising approach, but its development has been hindered by poor expression of the antigens in plant cells. In the present study, we targeted plant seeds as a low-cost vaccine production platform and successfully expressed the Plasmodium falciparum 42-kDa fragment of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1₄₂), a leading malaria vaccine candidate, at a high level in transgenic Arabidopsis seeds. We overcame hurdles of transcript and protein instabilities of MSP1₄₂ in plants by synthesizing a plant-optimized MSP1₄₂ cDNA and either targeting the recombinant protein to protein storage vacuoles or fusing it with a stable plant storage protein. An exceptional improvement in MSP1₄₂ expression, from an undetectable level to 5% of total extractable protein, was achieved with these combined strategies. Importantly, the plant-derived MSP1₄₂ maintains its natural antigenicity and can be recognized by immune sera from malaria-infected patients. Our results provide a strong basis for the development of a plant-based, low-cost malaria vaccine.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arabidopsis / genetics
  • Arabidopsis / metabolism*
  • Malaria Vaccines / immunology*
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1 / genetics
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1 / immunology*
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1 / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Seeds / genetics
  • Seeds / metabolism*


  • Malaria Vaccines
  • Merozoite Surface Protein 1