Clearance of non-infected red blood cells (nRBCs) is one of the main components of anemia associated with Plasmodium vivax malaria. Recently, we have shown that anemic patients with P. vivax infection had elevated levels of anti-RBCs antibodies, which could enhance in vitro phagocytosis of nRBCs and decrease their deformability. Using immunoproteomics, here we characterized erythrocytic antigens that are differentially recognized by autoantibodies from anemic and non-anemic patients with acute vivax malaria. Protein spots exclusively recognized by anemic P. vivax-infected patients were identified by mass spectrometry revealing band 3 and spectrin as the main targets. To confirm this finding, antibody responses against these specific proteins were assessed by ELISA. In addition, an inverse association between hemoglobin and anti-band 3 or anti-spectrin antibodies levels was found. Anemic patients had higher levels of IgG against both band 3 and spectrin than the non-anemic ones. To determine if these autoantibodies were elicited because of molecular mimicry, we used in silico analysis and identified P. vivax proteins that share homology with human RBC proteins such as spectrin, suggesting that infection drives autoimmune responses. These findings suggest that band 3 and spectrin are potential targets of autoantibodies that may be relevant for P. vivax malaria-associated anemia.
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