BALB/c mice are strongly protected against malaria after immunization with Plasmodium yoelii (PY) sporozoites, and this is an important model for malaria vaccine development in humans. This paper explores the role of CD4+ cells in the induction of the antimalarial immune response. The method used has been to treat animals with anti-CD4 mAb before immunization, resulting in a profound depletion of CD4+ T cells. The primary finding is that mice are not protected by sporozoite immunization after depletion of CD4+ cells. Such mice make little antibody to malaria sporozoite Ag, showing the strong T-cell dependence of these humoral responses. However, infusion of hyperimmune serum does not restore immunity to anti-CD4 treated animals. Neither does injection of exogenous IL-2 compensate for the absence of CD4+ cells. However, regrowth of CD4+ cells does allow successful immunization of animals, showing that long-term suppression against malaria Ag has not been induced by immunization in the absence of CD4+ cells. It is thought that infiltrating CD8+ T cells are critical effector cells against PY parasites in the pre-erythrocytic stages. Mice immunized while depleted of CD4+ cells have normal numbers of CD8+ T cells infiltrating their livers. In addition, they have normal numbers of splenic CD8+ CTL directed at the PY circumsporozoite protein. Thus, it appears that although CD8+ cells have been activated in the absence of CD4+ cells, they cannot protect mice against malaria. We conclude that a successful vaccine against the pre-erythrocytic stages of malaria must activate both CD4+ and CD8+ T cells.

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