We have examined immune responses to a cultured Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte lysate and to an affinity-purified preparation of the 48/45-kDa gamete surface Ag in a group of 30 malaria immune individuals and in 24 Europeans with no previous exposure to malaria. Cellular responses were assessed in vitro by lymphoproliferation and production of IFN-gamma; antigamete antibodies were detected by immunofluorescence, Western blotting, and competitive ELISA. Cells from all the malaria immune donors responded to the gametocyte lysate in both assays while cells from nonimmune donors gave only weak proliferative responses. Antigamete antibodies were detected in the serum of all the immune donors but not in serum from nonimmunes. Nonimmune donors were completely unresponsive to the purified 48/45-kDa surface Ag while cells from 40% of immune donors responded by either proliferation or IFN-gamma production. Only 3 of 30 immune donors had detectable antibodies to the 48/45-kDa Ag. Class II HLA type was determined for 27 of the immune donors but no relationship between HLA-DR or -DQ and responsiveness to the 48/45-kDa Ag was discerned. The possible reasons for limited recognition of this gamete surface Ag are discussed.

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