Strain-Specific Humoral Response to a Polymorphic Malaria Vaccine Academic Article uri icon


  • The 3D7 form of the merozoite surface protein 2 (MSP2) of Plasmodium falciparum was one of three subunits of the malaria vaccine Combination B that were tested in a phase I/IIb double-blind randomized placebo-controlled trial, which was undertaken with 120 Papua New Guinean children of 5 to 9 years of age. Because only one variant of the highly polymorphic MSP2 was used for vaccination, we examined whether the elicited response was directed against conserved or strain-specific epitopes. Postvaccination (week 12) titers of antibody against recombinantly expressed individual domains of MSP2 were measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and compared to baseline values. We found that vaccination with the 3D7 form of MSP2 induced a significant strain-specific humoral response directed against the repetitive and semiconserved family-specific part. The conserved N- and C-terminal domains were not immunogenic. Titers of antibody against the alternate FC27 family-specific domain showed a tendency to increase in vaccinated children, but there was no increase in antibodies against FC27-type 32-mer repeats. These results indicate that vaccination with one MSP2 variant mainly induced a strain-specific response, which can explain the selective effect of vaccination with combination B on the genotypes of breakthrough parasites. These findings support the inclusion of both family-specific domains (3D7 and FC27) in an improved vaccine formulation.


  • Fluck, C
  • Smith, T
  • Beck, H-P
  • Irion, A
  • Betuela, I
  • Alpers, MP
  • Anders, R
  • Saul, A
  • Genton, B
  • Felger, I

publication date

  • November 1, 2004