Research Summary: Protective Immunity Induced with the RTS,S/AS Vaccine Is Associated with IL-2 and TNF-α Producing Effector and Central Memory CD4+ T Cells


A phase 2a RTS,S/AS malaria vaccine trial, conducted previously at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, conferred sterile immunity against a primary challenge with infectious sporozoites in 40% of the 80 subjects enrolled in the study. The frequency of Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CSP)-specific CD4+ T cells was significantly higher in protected subjects as compared to non-protected subjects. Intrigued by these unique vaccine-related correlates of protection, in the present study we asked whether RTS,S also induced effector/effector memory (TE/EM) and/or central memory (TCM) CD4+ T cells and whether one or both of these sub-populations is the primary source of cytokine production. We showed for the first time that PBMC from malaria-non-exposed RTS,S-immunized subjects contain both TE/EM and TCM cells that generate strong IL-2 responses following re-stimulation in vitro with CSP peptides. Moreover, both the frequencies and the total numbers of IL-2-producing CD4+ TE/EM cells and of CD4+ TCM cells from protected subjects were significantly higher than those from non-protected subjects. We also demonstrated for the first time that there is a strong association between the frequency of CSP peptide-reactive CD4+ T cells producing IL-2 and the titers of CSP-specific antibodies in the same individual, suggesting that IL-2 may be acting as a growth factor for follicular Th cells and/or B cells. The frequencies of CSP peptide-reactive, TNF-α-producing CD4+ TE/EM cells and of CD4+ TE/EM cells secreting both IL-2 and TNF-α were also shown to be higher in protected vs. non-protected individuals. We have, therefore, demonstrated that in addition to TNF-α, IL-2 is also a significant contributing factor to RTS,S/AS vaccine induced immunity and that both TE/EM and TCM cells are major producers of IL-2.


Publisher: Public Library of Science

Date Published: 11-July-2011

Author(s): Lumsden J., Schwenk R., Rein L., Moris P., Janssens M., Ofori-Anyinam O., Cohen J., Kester K., Heppner D., Krzych U.


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