We established and analyzed human T lymphocyte clones induced by crude Plasmodium falciparum antigens of schizont-enriched asexual blood stages. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) were stimulated for 6 days with antigen, and the T cell blasts were separated and were transferred to limiting dilution cultures with antigen, irradiated PBMC, and recombinant interleukin 2. The following observations were made. Malaria antigen (M.Ag) induced similar proportions of T blasts in PBMC from infected individuals and noninfected controls, and the M.Ag-dependent clone frequencies (1/79 to 1/216) obtained with the blasts were similar. The majority of established clones derived from infected and noninfected subjects specifically recognized M.Ag and would not proliferate in response to red blood cells or autologous PBMC alone. They also required HLA class II determinant-compatible antigen-presenting (E-) cells. With three clones from one malaria patient, DR 1 or DR 5 specificities correlated with antigen presentation. Although T4+ and T8+ blasts were induced by M.Ag in PBMC, only T4 (Leu-3+) clones were obtained in our culture system. These clones secreted IL 2 in response to M.Ag. 4) Differential patterns of reactivity to native M.Ag, heat-stable antigens, and heat-precipitated antigens were exhibited by T cell clones, and the tested clones did not recognize Plasmodium berghei antigen. In conclusion, it is important with regard to previous observations on apparently nonspecific, mitogen-like effects of M.Ag in bulk T cell cultures that our results demonstrate specific recognition of P. falciparum by human T cells. The T cell clones obtained will be an important tool in the quest for a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in resistance to malaria infection.

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