Irradiated malaria sporozoites can induce CD8+ T cells that are required for protection against infection. However, the parasite antigens targeted by this immune response are unknown. We have discovered a 16-amino acid epitope from the Plasmodium yoelii circumsporozoite (CS) protein that is recognized by cytotoxic T cells from immune mice. Lymphocytes stimulated with this peptide can kill P. yoelii liver stage parasites in vitro in an MHC-restricted, antigen-specific manner. Thus, epitopes from the CS protein are presented on the surface of infected hepatocytes and can be targets for T cells, even though intact CS protein has not been detected on the surface of the infected hepatocyte. A vaccine that induced CTL to parasite antigens might protect humans against malaria by eliminating liver stage parasites.

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