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Cellular responses to Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein-1: use of relatively conserved synthetic peptide pools to determine CD4 T cell responses in malaria-exposed individuals in Benin, West Africa

Latifu A Sanni1, Catherine EM Allsopp12, Lieke Reubsaet12, Ambaliou Sanni3, Chris Newbold2, Virander S Chauhan4 and Jean Langhorne1*

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Parasitology, National Institute for Medical Research, The Ridgeway, Mill Hill, London NW7 1AA, UK

2 Molecular Parasitology Group, Institute of Molecular Medicine, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford OX3 9DS, UK

3 Laboratory of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, National University of Benin, Cotonou, Benin

4 International Centre for Engineering and Biotechnology, Aruna Asaf Ali Marg, New Delhi 110067, India

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Malaria Journal 2002, 1:7  doi:10.1186/1475-2875-1-7

Published: 26 April 2002



Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein-1, a variant antigen of the malaria parasite, is potentially a target for the immune response. It would be important to determine whether there are CD4 T cells that recognise conserved regions. However, within the relatively conserved region, there is variation. It is not possible to test T cell responses from small field samples with all possible peptides.


We have aligned sequences that are relatively conserved between several PfEMP1 molecules, and chosen a representative sequence similar to most of the PfEMP1 variants. Using these peptides as pools representing CIDRα, CIDRβ and DBLβ-δ domains, DBLα domain, and EXON 2 domain of PfEMP1, we measured the CD4 T cell responses of malaria-exposed donors from Benin, West Africa by a FACS based assay.


All the three peptide pools elicited a CD4 T cell response in a proportion of malaria-exposed and non-exposed donors. CD4 T cell proliferation occurs at a relatively higher magnitude to peptide pools from the DBLα and EXON 2 in the malaria-exposed donors living in Benin than in the UK malaria-unexposed donors.


These findings suggest that an immunological recall response to conserved peptides of a variant antigen can be measured. Further testing of individual peptides in a positive pool will allow us to determine those conserved sequences recognised by many individuals. These types of assays may provide information on conserved peptides of PfEMP1 which could be useful for stimulating T cells to provide help to P. falciparum specific B cells.