Repeat antigens, such as the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (PfCSP), use both sequence degeneracy and structural diversity to evade the immune response. A few PfCSP-directed antibodies have been identified that are effective at preventing malaria infection, including CIS43, but how these repeat-targeting antibodies might be improved has been unclear. Here, we engineered a humanized mouse model in which B cells expressed inferred human germline CIS43 (iGL-CIS43) B cell receptors and used both vaccination and bioinformatic analysis to obtain variant CIS43 antibodies with improved protective capacity. One such antibody, iGL-CIS43.D3, was significantly more potent than the current best-in-class PfCSP-directed antibody. We found that vaccination with a junctional epitope peptide was more effective than full-length PfCSP at recruiting iGL-CIS43 B cells to germinal centers. Structure-function analysis revealed multiple somatic hypermutations that combinatorically improved protection. This mouse model can thus be used to understand vaccine immunogens and to develop highly potent anti-malarial antibodies.
Keywords: PfCSP; adoptively transferred B cells; antibody CIS43; circumsporozoite; epitope-focused immunization; in situ vaccination; junctional epitope; malaria; passive protective.
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