A VLP for validation of the Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein junctional epitope for vaccine development.
Atcheson E., Hill AVS., Reyes-Sandoval A.
Malaria continues to be a pressing global health issue, causing nearly half a million deaths per year. An effective malaria vaccine could radically improve our ability to control and eliminate this pathogen. The most advanced malaria vaccine, RTS,S, confers only 30% protective efficacy under field conditions, and hence the search continues for improved vaccines. New antigens and formulations are always first developed at a pre-clinical level. This paper describes the development of a platform to supplement existing tools of pre-clinical malaria vaccine development, by displaying linear peptides on a virus-like particle (VLP). Peptides from PfCSP, particularly from outside the normal target of neutralizing antibodies, the central NANP repeat region, are screened for evidence of protective efficacy. One peptide, recently identified as a target of potent neutralizing antibodies and lying at the junction between the N-terminal domain and the central repeat region of PfCSP, is found to confer protective efficacy against malaria sporozoite challenge in mice when presented on the Qβ VLP. The platform is also used to explore the effects of increasing numbers of NANP unit repeats, and including a universal CD4+ T-cell epitope from tetanus toxin, on immunogenicity and protective efficacy. The VLP-peptide platform is shown to be of use in screening malaria peptides for protective efficacy and answering basic vaccinology questions in a pre-clinical setting.