Immunity to Malarial Antigens on the Surface of Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes

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  • Department of Parasitology, Faculty of Medicine, University of Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • Malaria Section, Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Parasitic Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Maryland 20205
  • § Parasite Immunology Division, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115

An indirect immunofluorescence test with fresh non-fixed infected blood as antigen was used to show that antibody in human sera from the Gambia recognized antigens on the surface of Plasmodium falciparum-infected human erythrocytes. Surface immunofluorescence was detected on 90% of erythrocytes infected with trophozoites and schizonts produced in continuous culture of isolates from the Gambia (FCR 3/K+), Brazil and Thailand. Fluorescence was equally strong with a Gambian parasite clone (FCR 3/K-) that lacked knobs, an ultrastructural modification of the erythrocyte membrane associated with parasite sequestration. Immunofluorescence could not be detected with an isolate from Uganda. The surface antigenicity of parasitized erythrocytes was eliminated by chymotrypsin and trypsin treatment. Fluorescence was specific for the surface of trophozoite- and schizont-infected cells on the condition that fresh erythrocytes were added to cultures every 4–5 days (subculture); if fresh erythrocytes were not added for over 2 weeks, a large percentage of non-infected erythrocytes also bound antibody. Normal erythrocytes incubated with media from these cultures also gave positive surface immunofluorescence. Thus, there are two types of antigenicity on erythrocytes: one expressed on infected erythrocytes and another passively absorbed from media to normal erythrocytes when parasites are not subcultured for long periods.