Elevated plasma abscisic acid is associated with asymptomatic falciparum malaria and with IgG-/caspase-1-dependent immunity in Plasmodium yoelii-infected mice

Sci Rep. 2018 Jun 11;8(1):8896. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-27073-1.


Abscisic acid (ABA) is an ancient stress hormone and is detectable in a wide variety of organisms where it regulates innate immunity and inflammation. Previously, we showed that oral supplementation with ABA decreased parasitemia in a mouse model of malaria, decreased liver and spleen pathology and reduced parasite transmission to mosquitoes. Here, we report that higher circulating ABA levels were associated with a reduced risk of symptomatic malaria in a cohort of Plasmodium falciparum-infected Ugandan children. To understand possible mechanisms of ABA protection in malaria, we returned to our mouse model to show that ABA effects on Plasmodium yoelii 17XNL infection were accompanied by minimal effects on complete blood count and blood chemistry analytes, suggesting a benefit to host health. In addition, orally delivered ABA induced patterns of gene expression in mouse liver and spleen that suggested enhancement of host anti-parasite defenses. To test these inferences, we utilized passive immunization and knockout mice to demonstrate that ABA supplementation increases circulating levels of protective, parasite-specific IgG and requires caspase-1 to reduce parasitemia. Collectively, ABA induces host responses that ameliorate infection and disease in an animal model and suggest that further studies of ABA in the context of human malaria are warranted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Abscisic Acid / blood*
  • Acids
  • Animals
  • Asymptomatic Diseases
  • Caspase 1 / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Malaria / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Plasmodium yoelii / immunology
  • Uganda


  • Acids
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Plant Growth Regulators
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Caspase 1