Recently, we described the improved immunogenicity of new malaria vaccine candidates based on the expression of fusion proteins containing immunodominant epitopes of merozoites and Salmonella enterica serovar Typhimurium flagellin
) protein as an innate immune agonist. Here, we tested whether a similar strategy, based on an immunodominant B-cell epitope from malaria sporozoites, could also generate immunogenic fusion polypeptides. A recombinant His6-tagged FliC protein containing the C-terminal repeat regions of the VK210 variant of Plasmodium vivax
circumsporozoite (CS) protein was constructed. This recombinant protein was successfully expressed in Escherichia coli
as soluble protein and was purified by affinity to Ni-agarose beads followed by ion exchange chromatography. A monoclonal antibody specific for the CS protein of P. vivax
sporozoites (VK210) was able to recognise the purified protein. C57BL/6 mice subcutaneously immunised with the recombinant fusion protein in the absence of any conventional adjuvant developed protein-specific systemic antibody responses. However, in mice genetically deficient in expression of TLR5, this immune response was extremely low. These results extend our previous observations concerning the immunogenicity of these recombinant fusion proteins and provide evidence that the main mechanism responsible for this immune activation involves interactions with TLR5, which has not previously been demonstrated for any recombinant FliC fusion protein.