The Disulfide Bond Structure ofPlasmodiumApical Membrane Antigen-1 Academic Article uri icon


  • Apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA-1) of Plasmodium falciparum is one of the leading asexual blood stage antigens being considered for inclusion in a malaria vaccine. The ability of this molecule to induce a protective immune response has been shown to be dependent upon a conformation stabilized by disulfide bonds. In this study we have utilized the reversed-phase high performance liquid chromatography of dithiothreitol-reduced and nonreduced tryptic digests of Plasmodium chabaudi AMA-1 secreted from baculovirus-infected insect cells, in conjunction with N-terminal sequencing and electrospray-ionization mass spectrometry, to identify and assign disulfide-linked peptides. All 16 cysteine residues that are conserved in all known sequences of AMA-1 are incorporated into intramolecular disulfide bonds. Six of the eight bonds have been assigned unequivocally, whereas the two unassigned disulfide bonds connect two Cys-Xaa-Cys sequences separated by 14 residues. The eight disulfide bonds fall into three nonoverlapping groups that define three possible subdomains within the AMA-1 ectodomain. Although the pattern of disulfide bonds within subdomain III has not been fully elucidated, one of only two possible linkage patterns closely resembles the cystine knot motif found in growth factors. Sites of amino acid substitutions in AMA-1 that are well separated in the primary sequence are clustered by the disulfide bonds in subdomains II and III. These findings are consistent with the conclusion that these amino acid substitutions are defining conformational disulfide bond-dependent epitopes that are recognized by protective immune responses.

publication date

  • November 15, 1996