Unusual antibodies target malaria

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Science  05 Feb 2016:
Vol. 351, Issue 6273, pp. 572-573
DOI: 10.1126/science.351.6273.572-f

An unusual gene insertion allows antibodies to detect red blood cells infected with the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum


B cells make antibodies through a process of somatic recombination. This gives rise to a diverse repertoire of antibodies able to target many pathogens, such as the malaria-causing parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Tan et al. screened the plasma of P. falciparum—in infected individuals to look for antibodies that kill infected red blood cells (RBCs). They isolated several monoclonal antibodies from multiple individuals that showed broad reactivity for infected RBCs. To their surprise, these antibodies all contained a genomic insertion that encoded a collagen-binding protein called LAIR1, and it was this insert, rather than the antibody-encoding gene segments themselves, which recognized the infected RBCs. Whether such insertions exist in other antibodies remains to be determined.

Nature 529, 105 (2016).

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