Understanding the targets and mechanisms of human immunity to malaria is important for advancing the development of highly efficacious vaccines and serological tools for malaria surveillance. The PfRH5 and PfRipr proteins form a complex on the surface of P. falciparum merozoites that is essential for invasion of erythrocytes and are vaccine candidates. We determined IgG subclass responses to these proteins among malaria-exposed individuals in Papua New Guinea and their association with protection from malaria in a longitudinal cohort of children. Cytophilic subclasses, IgG1 and IgG3, were predominant with limited IgG2 and IgG4, and IgG subclass-specific responses were higher in older children and those with active infection. High IgG3 to PfRH5 and PfRipr were significantly and strongly associated with reduced risk of malaria after adjusting for potential confounding factors, whereas associations for IgG1 responses were generally weaker and not statistically significant. Results further indicated that malaria exposure leads to the co-acquisition of IgG1 and IgG3 to PfRH5 and PfRipr, as well as to other PfRH invasion ligands, PfRH2 and PfRH4. These findings suggest that IgG3 responses to PfRH5 and PfRipr may play a significant role in mediating naturally-acquired immunity and support their potential as vaccine candidates and their use as antibody biomarkers of immunity.
We thank all study participants and the PNG Institute of Medical Research staff involved in the study. This work was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (program grant, and senior research fellowship to J.G.B.; postdoctoral research fellowship to J.S.R.; Infrastructure for Research Institutes Support Scheme Grant to the Burnet Institute); the Australian Research Council (a Future Fellowship to F.J.I.F.); the Victorian State Government Operational Infrastructure Support scheme.