Characterization of PSOP26 as an ookinete surface antigen with improved transmission-blocking activity when fused with PSOP25

Parasit Vectors. 2022 May 23;15(1):175. doi: 10.1186/s13071-022-05294-8.


Background: The Plasmodium zygote-to-ookinete developmental transition is an essential step for establishing an infection in the mosquito vector, and antigens expressed during this stage are potential targets for transmission-blocking vaccines (TBVs). The secreted ookinete protein 26 (PSOP26) is a newly identified ookinete surface protein. The anti-PSOP26 serum has moderate transmission-blocking activity, indicating the benefit of further investigating this protein as a target for TBVs.

Methods: The function of psop26 was analyzed by targeted gene disruption. A chimeric PSOP25-PSOP26 protein was expressed in the Escherichia coli system. The PSOP25-PSOP26 fusion protein, along with mixed (PSOP25 + PSOP26) or single proteins (PSOP26 or PSOP25), were used for the immunization of mice. The antibody titers and immunogenicity of individual sera were analyzed by enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA), indirect immunofluorescence assay (IFA), and Western blot. The transmission-blocking activity of sera from different immunization schemes was assessed using in vitro and in vivo assays.

Results: PSOP26 is a surface protein expressed in Plasmodium gametes and ookinetes. The protein is dispensable for asexual blood-stage development, gametogenesis, and zygote formation, but is essential for the zygote-to-ookinete developmental transition. Specifically, both the prevalence of infections and oocyst densities were decreased in mosquitoes fed on psop26-null mutants. Mixtures of individual PSOP25 and PSOP26 fragments (PSOP25 + PSOP26), as well as chimeras (PSOP25-PSOP26), elicited high antibody levels in mice, with no immunological interference. Antisera against the mixed and fusion proteins elicited higher transmission-reducing activity (TRA) than antisera against the single PSOP26 antigen, but comparable to antisera against PSOP25 antigen alone.

Conclusions: PSOP26 plays a critical role in the zygote-to-ookinete developmental transition. PSOP25 is a promising TBV candidate that could be used alone to target the ookinete stage.

Keywords: Fertilization; Gamete; Ookinete; Plasmodium berghei; Transmission-blocking.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Surface
  • Immune Sera
  • Malaria Vaccines*
  • Malaria* / prevention & control
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Plasmodium berghei
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism


  • Antigens, Surface
  • Immune Sera
  • Malaria Vaccines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins