Inhibiting transmission of Plasmodium is a central strategy in malarial eradication, and the biological process of gamete fusion during fertilization is a proven target for this approach. The lack of a structure or known molecular function of current anti-malarial vaccine targets has previously been a hindrance in the development of transmission-blocking vaccines. Structure/function studies have indicated that the conserved gamete membrane fusion protein HAP2 is a class II viral fusion protein. Here, we demonstrate that targeting a function-critical site of the fusion/cd loop with species-specific antibodies reduces Plasmodium berghei transmission in vivo by 58.9% and in vitro fertilization by up to 89.9%. A corresponding reduction in P. falciparum transmission (75.5%/36.4% reductions in intensity/prevalence) is observed in complimentary field studies. These results emphasize conserved mechanisms of fusion in Apicomplexa, while highlighting an approach to design future anti-malarial transmission-blocking vaccines.
Keywords: HAP2; fusion; malaria; transmission; vaccine.
Copyright © 2017 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.