Cloning and characterization of the merozoite surface antigen 1 gene of Plasmodium berghei.

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  • 1 Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Georgetown University Medical Center, Washington, District of Columbia 20007, USA.

Merozoite surface antigen 1 (MSA1) is a promising candidate for vaccine development against malaria parasites. Here, we report the complete nucleotide sequence of the gene encoding the precursor to this major surface antigen of Plasmodium berghei strain ANKA using cDNA library screening and polymerase chain reaction techniques. A single open reading frame of 5,376 basepairs encoding a protein with a calculated molecular mass of 197 kD was defined. The protein contains a putative signal peptide of 19 amino acids, a membrane anchor sequence of 18 residues, and shows two epidermal growth factor-like domains rich in Cys residues at the C-terminus. There are four repeat sequences of oligopeptides in the molecule: tetrapeptide (Ser-Thr-Thr-Thr), tripeptide (Pro-Thr-Pro and Pro-Ala-Ala), and dipeptide (Ser-Gly). Furthermore, three nine-residue stretches of a motif (Ala-Ser-Asn-Pro-Gly-Ala-Ser-Ala-Ser) are located near each other. All of these repeat sequences are unexceptionally located in the variable regions when compared with other MSA1 molecules. The molecule displays 79% overall identity to the analogous antigen of P. yoelii yoelii strain YM, 70% to that of P. chabaudi chabaudi strain AS, and 38% to that of P. falciparum strain Wellcome.