The key targets of protective antibodies against Plasmodium falciparum remain largely unknown. In this study, we determined immunoreactivity to 1827 recombinant proteins derived from 1565 genes representing ∼30% of the entire P. falciparum genome, for identification of novel malaria vaccine candidates. The recombinant proteins were expressed by wheat germ cell-free system, a platform that can synthesize quality plasmodial proteins that elicit biologically active antibodies in animals. Sera were obtained from indigenous residents of a malaria endemic region in Northern Uganda who were enrolled at the start of a rainy season and prospectively monitored for symptomatic malaria episodes for a year. Immunoreactivity to sera was determined by AlphaScreen; a homogeneous high-throughput system that detects protein interactions. Our analysis revealed antibody responses to 128 proteins that significantly associated with protection from symptomatic malaria. From 128 proteins, 53 were down-selected as the most plausible targets of host protective immune response by virtue of having a predicted signal peptide and/or transmembrane domain(s), or confirmed localization on the parasite surface. The 53 proteins comprised of not only previously characterized vaccine candidates but also uncharacterized proteins. Proteins involved in erythrocyte invasion; RON4, RON2 and CLAG3.1 and pre-erythrocytic proteins; SIAP-2, TRAP and CelTOS, were recommended for prioritization for further evaluation as vaccine candidates. The findings clearly demonstrate that generation of the protein library using the wheat germ cell-free system coupled with high throughput immunoscreening with AlphaScreen offers new options for rational discovery and selection of potential malaria vaccine candidates.
Keywords: Malaria; Naturally acquired immunity; Uganda; Vaccine.
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