Immunity to 143/140 kD schizont antigens of a monkey malaria, Plasmodium knowlesi, provides partial protection to lethal malaria infection in rhesus monkeys challenged with uncloned parasites. To determine the capacity of a cloned parasite to generate variants of the 143/140 kD antigens, immunized monkeys were challenged with a clone of P. knowlesi. Parasites recovered 8 d after inoculation with a cloned parasite retained the 143/140 kD antigens. Parasites recovered 30 d after challenge had undergone changes in the 143/140 kD antigens. Antibodies that block erythrocyte invasion in vitro of the inoculum parasites did not inhibit invasion of erythrocytes by two isolates recovered from the immunized monkeys. An isolate from one monkey recovered on day 30 contained clones expressing new 76/72 kD antigens reactive with rabbit antiserum against the 143/140 kD proteins, and other clones expressing no antigens crossreactive with antisera against the 143/140 kD proteins. An isolate from another monkey obtained 59 d after challenge expressed new antigens of 160/155, 115/113, and 87/85 kD. Using monoclonal antibodies, we found that epitopes were lost from the variant proteins, but we were unable to determine whether new epitopes had appeared. We conclude that clones of P. knowlesi can rapidly vary antigenic determinants on the 143/140 kD proteins in animals immunized with these antigens.

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