Background: The Plasmodium protein Cell-traversal protein for ookinetes and sporozoites (CelTOS) plays an important role in cell traversal of host cells in both, mosquito and vertebrates, and is required for successful malaria infections. CelTOS is highly conserved among the Plasmodium species, suggesting an important functional role across all species. Therefore, targeting the immune response to this highly conserved protein and thus potentially interfering with its biological function may result in protection against infection even by heterologous species of Plasmodium.
Methodology/principal findings: To test this hypothesis, we developed a recombinant codon-harmonized P. falciparum CelTOS protein that can be produced to high yields in the E. coli expression system. Inbred Balb/c and outbred CD-1 mice were immunized with various doses of the recombinant protein adjuvanted with Montanide ISA 720 and characterized using in vitro and in vivo analyses.
Conclusions/significance: Immunization with PfCelTOS resulted in potent humoral and cellular immune responses and most importantly induced sterile protection against a heterologous challenge with P. berghei sporozoites in a proportion of both inbred and outbred mice. The biological activity of CelTOS-specific antibodies against the malaria parasite is likely linked to the impairment of sporozoite motility and hepatocyte infectivity. The results underscore the potential of this antigen as a pre-erythrocytic vaccine candidate and demonstrate for the first time a malaria vaccine that is cross-protective between species.