Protective immunity generated following malaria infection may be comprised of Ab or T cells against malaria Ag of different stages; however, the short-lived immunity that is observed suggests deficiency in immune memory or regulatory activity. In this study, cellular immune responses were investigated in individuals receiving Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite challenge by the natural (mosquito bite) route as part of a malaria vaccine efficacy trial. Parasitemia, monitored by blood film microscopy and PCR, was subsequently cleared with drugs. All individuals demonstrated stable IFN-, IL-2 and IL-4 ex vivo ELISPOT effector responses against P. falciparum-infected RBC (iRBC) Ag, 28 and 90 days after challenge. However, infected RBC-specific central memory responses, as measured by IFN- cultured ELISPOT, were low and unstable over time, despite CD4+ T cells being highly proliferative by CFSE dilution, and showed an inverse relationship to parasite density. In support of the observation of poor memory, co-culture experiments showed reduced responses to common recall Ag, indicating malaria-specific regulatory activity. This activity could not be accounted for by the expression of IL-10, TGF-, FOXP3 or CTLA-4, but proliferating T cells expressed high levels of CD95, indicating a pro-apoptotic phenotype. Lastly, there was an inverse relationship between FOXP3 expression, when measured 10 days after challenge, and ex vivo IFN- measured more than 100 days later. This study shows that malaria infection elicits specific Th1 and Th2 effector cells, but concomitant weak central memory and regulatory activity, which may help to explain the short-lived immunity observed.