Early detection is crucial for the effective treatment of malaria, particularly in those cases infected with Plasmodium falciparum. There is a need for diagnostic devices with the capacity to distinguish P. falciparum from other strains of malaria. Here, aptamers generated against targeted species-specific epitopes of P. falciparum lactate dehydrogenase (rPfLDH) are described.
Two classes of aptamers bearing high binding affinity and specificity for recombinant P. falciparum lactate dehydrogenase (rPfLDH) and P. falciparum-specific lactate dehydrogenase epitopic oligopeptide (LDHp) were separately generated. Structurally-relevant moieties with particular consensus sequences (GGTAG and GGCG) were found in aptamers reported here and previously published, confirming their importance in recognition of the target, while novel moieties particular to this work (ATTAT and poly-A stretches) were identified. Aptamers with diagnostically-supportive functions were synthesized, prime examples of which are the aptamers designated as LDHp 1, LDHp 11 and rLDH 4 and rLDH 15 in work presented herein. Of the sampled aptamers raised against the recombinant protein, rLDH 4 showed the highest binding to the target rPfLDH in the ELONA assay, with both rLDH 4 and rLDH 15 indicating an ability to discriminate between rPfLDH and rPvLDH. LDHp 11 was generated against a peptide selected as a unique P. falciparum LDH peptide. The aptamer, LDHp 11, like antibodies against the same peptide, only detected rPfLDH and discriminated between rPfLDH and rPvLDH. This was supported by affinity binding experiments where only aptamers generated against a unique species-specific epitope showed an ability to preferentially bind to rPfLDH relative to rPvLDH rather than those generated against the whole recombinant protein. In addition, rLDH 4 and LDHp 11 demonstrated in situ binding to P. falciparum cells during confocal microscopy.
The utilization and application of LDHp 11, an aptamer generated against a unique species-specific epitope of P. falciparum LDH indicated the ability to discriminate between recombinant P. falciparum and Plasmodium vivax LDH. This aptamer holds promise as a biorecognition element in malaria diagnostic devices for the detection, and differentiation, of P. falciparum and P. vivax malaria infections. This study paves the way to explore aptamer generation against targeted species-specific epitopes of other Plasmodium species.