Date Published:2016 Apr
Malaria parasite infection is initiated by the mosquito-transmitted sporozoite stage, a highly motile invasive cell that targets hepatocytes in the liver for infection. A promising approach to developing a malaria vaccine is the use of proteins located on the sporozoite surface as antigens to elicit humoral immune responses that prevent the establishment of infection. Very little of the P. falciparum genome has been considered as potential vaccine targets, and candidate vaccines have been almost exclusively based on single antigens, generating the need for novel target identification. The most advanced malaria vaccine to date, RTS,S, a subunit vaccine consisting of a portion of the major surface protein circumsporozoite protein (CSP), conferred limited protection in Phase III trials, falling short of community-established vaccine efficacy goals. In striking contrast to the limited protection seen in current vaccine trials, sterilizing immunity can be achieved by immunization with radiation-attenuated sporozoites, suggesting that more potent protection may be achievable with a multivalent protein vaccine. Here, we provide the most comprehensive analysis to date of proteins located on the surface of or secreted by Plasmodium falciparum salivary gland sporozoites. We used chemical labeling to isolate surface-exposed proteins on sporozoites and identified these proteins by mass spectrometry. We validated several of these targets and also provide evidence that components of the inner membrane complex are in fact surface-exposed and accessible to antibodies in live sporozoites. Finally, our mass spectrometry data provide the first direct evidence that the Plasmodium surface proteins CSP and TRAP are glycosylated in sporozoites, a finding that could impact the selection of vaccine antigens.