Using high-throughput BioPlex assays, we determined that six fractions from the venom of Conus nux inhibit the adhesion of various recombinant PfEMP-1 protein domains (PF08_0106 CIDR1α3.1, PF11_0521 DBL2β3, and PFL0030c DBL3X and DBL5e) to their corresponding receptors (CD36, ICAM-1, and CSA, respectively). The protein domain-receptor interactions permit P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IE) to evade elimination in the spleen by adhering to the microvasculature in various organs including the placenta. The sequences for the main components of the fractions, determined by tandem mass spectrometry, yielded four T-superfamily conotoxins, one (CC-Loop-CC) with I-IV, II-III connectivity and three (CC-Loop-CXaaC) with a I-III, II-IV connectivity.
During the erythrocytic cycle, Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites express P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein 1 (PfEMP1) that anchor the infected erythrocytes (IE) to the vascular lining of the host. The CIDRα1 domain of PfEMP1 is responsible for binding host endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR), and increasing evidence support that this interaction triggers severe malaria, accounting for the majority of malaria-related deaths. In high transmission regions, children develop immunity to severe malaria after the first few infections. This immunity is believed to be mediated by antibodies targeting and inhibiting PfEMP1, causing infected erythrocytes to circulate and be cleared in the spleen. The development of immunity to malaria coincides with acquisition of broad antibody reactivity across the CIDRα1 protein family. Altogether, this identifies CIDRα1 as an important vaccine target. However, the antigenic diversity of the CIDRα1 domain family is a challenge for vaccine development.