Malaria infection starts when mosquitoes inject sporozoites into the skin. The parasites enter the blood stream and make their way to the liver where they develop into the exo-erythrocytic forms (EEFs). Immunization with irradiated sporozoites (IrSp) leads to robust protection against malaria infection in rodents, monkeys and humans by eliciting antibodies to circumsporozoite protein (CS) that inhibit sporozoite infectivity, and T cells that destroy the EEFs. To study the role of non-CS antigens in protection, we produced CS transgenic mice that were tolerant to CS T-cell epitopes. Here we show that in the absence of T-cell-dependent immune responses to CS, protection induced by immunization with two doses of IrSp was greatly reduced. Thus, although hundreds of other Plasmodium genes are expressed in sporozoites and EEFs, CS is a dominant protective antigen. Nevertheless, sterile immunity could be obtained by immunization of CS transgenics with three doses of IrSp.
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