BACKGROUND: Technical limitations for culturing the human malaria parasite Plasmodium vivax have impaired the discovery of vaccine candidates, challenging the malaria eradication agenda. The immunogenicity of the M2 domain of the Merozoite Adhesive Erythrocytic Binding Protein (MAEBL) antigen cloned from the Plasmodium yoelii murine parasite, has been previously demonstrated.
RESULTS: Detailed epitope mapping of MAEBL through immunoinformatics identified several MHCI, MHCII and B cell epitopes throughout the peptide, with several of these lying in the M2 domain and being conserved between P. vivax, P. yoelii and Plasmodium falciparum, hinting that the M2-MAEBL is pan-reactive. This hypothesis was tested through functional assays, showing that P. yoelii M2-MAEBL antisera are able to recognize and inhibit erythrocyte invasion from both P. falciparum and P. vivax parasites isolated from Thai patients, in ex vivo assays. Moreover, the sequence of the M2-MAEBL is shown to be highly conserved between P. vivax isolates from the Amazon and Thailand, indicating that the MAEBL antigen may constitute a vaccine candidate outwitting strain-specific immunity.
CONCLUSIONS: The MAEBL antigen is promising candidate towards the development of a malaria vaccine.