Irradiated sporozoite vaccination induces sex-specific immune responses and protection against malaria in mice

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3 Scopus citations


In both preclinical animal studies and human clinical trials, adult females tend to develop greater adaptive immune responses than males following receipt of either viral or bacterial vaccines. While there is currently no approved malaria vaccine, several anti-sporozoite vaccines, including RTS,S/AS01 and attenuated sporozoite vaccines, are in development, but the impact of sex and age on their efficacy remains undefined. To examine sex differences in the efficacy of anti-sporozoite stage malaria vaccination, adult (10 weeks of age) or juvenile (11 days of age) male and female C3H mice were twice vaccinated with irradiated transgenic Plasmodium berghei sporozoites expressing the P. falciparum circumsporozoite (CSP) protein and 45 days post boost vaccination, mice were challenged with transgenic P. berghei via mosquito bite or intradermal challenge. Immunization with irradiated sporozoites resulted in greater protection against challenge in adult females, which was associated with greater anti-CSP antibody production and avidity, as well as greater hepatic, but not splenic, CD8+ T cell IFNƴ production in adult females than adult males. No sex differences in adaptive immune responses or protection were observed in mice vaccinated prior to puberty, suggesting a role for sex steroid hormones. Depletion of testosterone in males increased, whereas rescue of testosterone decreased, anti-CSP antibody production, the number of antigen-specific CD8+ T cells isolated from the liver, and protection following parasite challenge. Conversely, depletion of sex steroids in female mice did not alter vaccine-induced responses or protection following challenge. These data suggest that elevated testosterone concentrations in males reduce adaptive immunity and contribute to sex differences in malaria vaccine efficacy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4468-4476
Number of pages9
Issue number32
StatePublished - Jul 26 2019


  • CSP
  • Circumsporozoite protein
  • Estrogen
  • Gender
  • Plasmodium
  • Testosterone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)
  • veterinary(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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