Malaria transmission-blocking antigen, Pfs230, mediates human red blood cell binding to exflagellating male parasites and oocyst production

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Abstract

Summary

Malaria transmission requires that the parasites differentiate into gametocytes prior to ingestion by a mosquito during a blood meal. Once in the mosquito midgut the gametocytes emerge from red blood cells (RBCs), fertilize, develop into ookinetes and finally infectious sporozoites. Gamete surface antigen, Pfs230, is an important malaria transmission-blocking vaccine candidate, but its function has remained unclear. Two clones with distinct Pfs230 gene disruptions (Δ1.356 and Δ2.560) and a clone with a disruption of Pfs48/45 were used to evaluate the role of Pfs230 in the mosquito midgut. Pfs230 disruptants successfully emerge from RBCs and male gametes exflagellate producing microgametes. However, exflagellating Pfs230-minus males, in the presence or absence of Pfs48/45, are unable to interact with RBCs and form exflagellation centres. Oocyst production and mosquito infectivity is also significantly reduced, 96–92% and 76–71% respectively. In contrast, in the Pfs230 disruptants the expression and localization of other known sexual stage-specific antigens, including Pfs48/45, Pfs47, the Pfs230 paralogue (PfsMR5), Pfs16 or Pfs25, were not altered and the Pfs230-minus gametes retained resistance to the alternative pathway of human complement. These results suggest that Pfs230 is the surface molecule on males that mediates RBC binding and plays an important role in oocyst development, a critical step in malaria transmission.

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