Apical membrane antigen 1 (AMA1) is considered one of the leading candidates for inclusion in a vaccine against blood stages of
Plasmodium falciparum. Although the ama1gene is relatively conserved compared to those for some other potential vaccine components, numerous point mutations have resulted in amino acid substitutions at many sites in the polypeptide. The polymorphisms in AMA1 have been attributed to the diversifying selection pressure of the protective immune responses. It was therefore of interest to investigate the impact of sequence diversity in P. falciparumAMA1 on the ability of anti-AMA1 antibodies to inhibit the invasion of erythrocytes in vitro by P. falciparummerozoites. For these studies, we used antibodies to recombinant P. falciparum3D7 AMA1 ectodomain, which was prepared for testing in early clinical trials. Antibodies were raised in rabbits to the antigen formulated in Montanide ISA720, and human antibodies to AMA1 were isolated by affinity purification from the plasma of adults living in regions of Papua New Guinea where malaria is endemic. Both rabbit and human anti-AMA1 antibodies were found to be strongly inhibitory to the invasion of erythrocytes by merozoites from both the homologous and two heterologous lines of P. falciparum. The inhibitory antibodies targeted both conserved and strain-specific epitopes within the ectodomain of AMA1; however, it appears that the majority of these antibodies reacted with strain-specific epitopes in domain I, the N-terminal disulfide-bonded domain, which is the most polymorphic region of AMA1.