Sofia Nunes-Silva 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , Stéphane Gangnard 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , Marta Vidal 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , Anneleen Vuchelen 5 , 6 , Sebastien Dechavanne 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , Sherwin Chan 7 , Els Pardon 5 , 6 , Jan Steyaert 5 , 6 , Stephanie Ramboarina 5 , 6 , Arnaud Chêne 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , Benoît Gamain a , 1 , 2 , 3 , 4
09 December 2014
VAR2CSA stands today as the leading vaccine candidate aiming to protect future pregnant women living in malaria endemic areas against the severe clinical outcomes of pregnancy associated malaria (PAM). The rational design of an efficient VAR2CSA-based vaccine relies on a profound understanding of the molecular interactions associated with P. falciparum infected erythrocyte sequestration in the placenta. Following immunization of a llama with the full-length VAR2CSA recombinant protein, we have expressed and characterized a panel of 19 nanobodies able to recognize the recombinant VAR2CSA as well as the surface of erythrocytes infected with parasites originating from different parts of the world. Domain mapping revealed that a large majority of nanobodies targeted DBL1X whereas a few of them were directed towards DBL4ε, DBL5ε and DBL6ε. One nanobody targeting the DBL1X was able to recognize the native VAR2CSA protein of the three parasite lines tested. Furthermore, four nanobodies targeting DBL1X reproducibly inhibited CSA adhesion of erythrocytes infected with the homologous NF54-CSA parasite strain, providing evidences that DBL1X domain is part or close to the CSA binding site. These nanobodies could serve as useful tools to identify conserved epitopes shared between different variants and to characterize the interactions between VAR2CSA and CSA.