Fine specificity of neonatal lymphocytes to an abundant malaria blood-stage antigen: epitope mapping of Plasmodium falciparum MSP1(33)

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Quantitative Health Sciences; Department of Pediatrics

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Alleles; Amino Acid Sequence; Animals; *Epitope Mapping; Epitopes, T-Lymphocyte; Female; Fetal Blood; Humans; Immunodominant Epitopes; Infant, Newborn; Kenya; Malaria; Merozoite Surface Protein 1; Molecular Sequence Data; Molecular Weight; Peptide Fragments; Plasmodium falciparum; Pregnancy; Severity of Illness Index; T-Lymphocyte Subsets


Biostatistics | Epidemiology | Health Services Research | Immunology and Infectious Disease | Pediatrics


Cord blood T cells have been reported to respond to a variety of exogenous Ags, including environmental allergens and various viruses and parasites, as demonstrated by enhanced proliferation and cytokine secretion. This finding is evidence that Ags in the maternal environment transplacentally prime and result in fetal development of memory T cells. Some studies suggest these neonatal T cell responses may arise by nonspecific activation of T cells that express TCRs with low binding affinity, thus lacking fine lymphocyte specificity. To address this question, we examined malaria Ag stimulation of human cord and adult blood mononuclear cells in samples from residents of a malaria endemic area in Kenya. We constructed overlapping 18-mer peptides derived from sequences contained in dimorphic alleles of the C-terminal 33-kDa fragment of Plasmodium falciparum merozoite protein 1. This study identified a dominant T cell epitope for one MSP1(33) allele (MAD20) and two T cell epitopes for the second allele (K1); these epitopes were nonoverlapping and allele specific. In a given donor, peptide-specific proliferation and IFN-gamma secretion were highly concordant. However, IL-10 and IL-13 secretion were not correlated. Importantly, the fine specificity of lymphocyte proliferation and cytokine secretion in cord and adult blood mononuclear cells was similar. Cord blood cells obtained from malaria-infected pregnant women were 4-fold more likely to acquire a peptide-specific immune response. We conclude that the fetal malaria response functions in a fully adaptive manner and that this response may serve to help protect the infant from severe malaria during infancy.


J Immunol. 2008 Mar 1;180(5):3383-90. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Journal of immunology (Baltimore, Md. : 1950)

PubMed ID


Related Resources

Link to Article in PubMed