Issue Date: March 17, 2008
Sugar Arrays Gauge Malaria Response
Arrays of synthetic glycan toxins derived from the malaria parasite may aid the design of an efficient carbohydrate-based vaccine for the disease (Nat. Chem. Biol., DOI: 10.1038/nchembio.75). The arrays built by Peter H. Seeberger of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich, and coworkers feature synthetic fragments of parasitic glycosylphosphatidylinositol (GPI), a complex sugar that helps initiate malarial infection. People who live in areas where malaria is endemic often produce high levels of antibodies against GPI. To examine this correlation in more detail, Seeberger's team used the arrays to screen a variety of human blood serum samples for antibodies that bind to the synthetic GPI fragments. Endemic exposure to the disease correlates with the presence of antibodies that bind to specific five- and six-sugar fragments of GPI, the researchers report. But they also offer evidence that exposure to the malaria parasite triggers the production of antibodies against only five-sugar GPI fragments, such as the one shown above. Antibodies to the six-sugar GPI fragments actually arise from exposure to other pathogens, they report. These findings offer valuable guidance for vaccine designers hoping to exploit the anti-GPI human immune response against malaria, the authors suggest.
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