Protective effects of combining monoclonal antibodies and vaccines against the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein

PLoS Pathog. 2021 Dec 6;17(12):e1010133. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010133. eCollection 2021 Dec.


Combinations of monoclonal antibodies (mAbs) against different epitopes on the same antigen synergistically neutralize many viruses. However, there are limited studies assessing whether combining human mAbs against distinct regions of the Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) circumsporozoite protein (CSP) enhances in vivo protection against malaria compared to each mAb alone or whether passive transfer of PfCSP mAbs would improve protection following vaccination against PfCSP. Here, we isolated a panel of human mAbs against the subdominant C-terminal domain of PfCSP (C-CSP) from a volunteer immunized with radiation-attenuated Pf sporozoites. These C-CSP-specific mAbs had limited binding to sporozoites in vitro that was increased by combination with neutralizing human "repeat" mAbs against the NPDP/NVDP/NANP tetrapeptides in the central repeat region of PfCSP. Nevertheless, passive transfer of repeat- and C-CSP-specific mAb combinations did not provide enhanced protection against in vivo sporozoite challenge compared to repeat mAbs alone. Furthermore, combining potent repeat-specific mAbs (CIS43, L9, and 317) that respectively target the three tetrapeptides (NPDP/NVDP/NANP) did not provide additional protection against in vivo sporozoite challenge. However, administration of either CIS43, L9, or 317 (but not C-CSP-specific mAbs) to mice that had been immunized with R21, a PfCSP-based virus-like particle vaccine that induces polyclonal antibodies against the repeat region and C-CSP, provided enhanced protection against sporozoite challenge when compared to vaccine or mAbs alone. Collectively, this study shows that while combining mAbs against the repeat and C-terminal regions of PfCSP provide no additional protection in vivo, repeat mAbs do provide increased protection when combined with vaccine-induced polyclonal antibodies. These data should inform the implementation of PfCSP human mAbs alone or following vaccination to prevent malaria infection.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive / methods*
  • Malaria Vaccines / immunology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / prevention & control
  • Mice
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology*
  • Protozoan Proteins / immunology*
  • Sporozoites / immunology


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Malaria Vaccines
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • circumsporozoite protein, Protozoan