Characterization of peripheral blood T lymphocyte subsets in Chinese rhesus macaques with repeated or long-term infection with Plasmodium cynomolgi

Parasitol Res. 2012 Feb;110(2):961-9. doi: 10.1007/s00436-011-2581-3. Epub 2011 Aug 14.


T lymphocytes play a vital role in antimalaria immunity, but there is little information about the role of T cells in malaria infection. In order to explore the profile of T cells in malaria immunity, we infected Chinese rhesus macaques with the malaria parasite (Plasmodium cynomolgi) and examined the dynamics of T cell subsets. Both repeated and long-term infections were involved. Our results showed that the monkeys in the repeated infection group acquired protective immunity through primary infection, which was evidenced by a much lower parasitemia, milder anemia, and milder fever during reinfection; the monkeys in the long-term infection group also developed protective immunity, but this was not sufficient to eliminate the parasite. The total counts of leukocytes, neutrophils, CD3+ T cells, CD4+ or CD8+ T cells, and naïve and memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells declined during the acute phase of malaria but increased after the parasite was controlled. The total number of activated CD4+ T cells significantly increased during malaria in animals with a long-term infection, which remained at least 3 months after the termination of malaria. However, the activated CD4+ T cells decreased during the acute phase of infection in the repeated infection group and converted to preinfection levels after malaria was cured. Regulatory CD4+ T cells continued to increase during the malaria infections and quickly reverted to preinfection levels after the parasite was controlled. Our study provides a systematic analysis of the kinetic profiles of T lymphocyte subsets during malaria infections and provides some experimental insight into malaria immunology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia / prevention & control
  • Animals
  • Blood / immunology*
  • CD3 Complex / analysis
  • CD4 Antigens / analysis
  • CD8 Antigens / analysis
  • China
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Immunophenotyping
  • Macaca mulatta / immunology*
  • Malaria / immunology
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Malaria / pathology
  • Malaria / veterinary*
  • Parasitemia / prevention & control
  • Plasmodium cynomolgi / immunology*
  • Primate Diseases / immunology*
  • Primate Diseases / parasitology
  • Primate Diseases / pathology
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / chemistry
  • T-Lymphocyte Subsets / immunology*


  • CD3 Complex
  • CD4 Antigens
  • CD8 Antigens