Molecular Factors Responsible for Host Cell Recognition and Invasion in Plasmodium falciparum1

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The Journal of Protozoology


ABSTRACT. In Plasmodium falciparum. the rhoptries involved in the invasion process are a pair of flask‐shaped organelles located at the apical tip of invading stages. They, along with the more numerous micronemes and dense granules, constitute the apical complex in Plasmodium and other members of the phylum Apicomplexa. Several proteins of varying molecular weight have been identified in P. falciparum rhoptries. These include the 225‐, 140/130/110‐, 80/60/40‐, RAP‐1 80‐, AMA‐1 80‐, QF3 80‐, and 55‐kDa proteins. Some of these proteins are lost during schizont rupture and release of merozoites. Others such as the 140/130/110‐kDa complex are transferred to the erythrocyte membrane during invasion. The ring‐infected surface antigen (RESA). a 155‐kDa polypeptide located in dense granules also associates with the erythrocyte membrane during invasion. Erythrocyte‐binding studies have demonstrated that both the 140/130/110‐kDa rhoptry complex and RESA bind to inside‐out‐vesicles (IOVs) prepared from human erythrocytes. The 140/130/110‐kDa complex also binds to erythrocyte membranes prepared by hypotonic lysis. These proteins, however, do not bind to intact human erythrocytes. In a heterologous erythrocyte model, both the 140/130/110‐kDa complex and RESA are shown to bind directly to mouse erythrocytes. Other studies have shown that RESA associates with spectrin in the erythrocyte cytoskeleton. We have recently developed a liposome‐binding assay to demonstrate the lipophilic binding properties of the P. falciparum rhoptry complex of 140/130/110 kDa. The rhoptry complex binds to liposomes containing neutrally, positively, and negatively charged phospholipids. However, liposomes containing phosphatidylethanolamine compete effectively for rhoptry protein binding to mouse erythrocytes. The rhoptry complex also binds to membrane and inside‐out‐vesicles prepared from human erythrocytes and erythrocytes from other species. The rhoptry complex associated with the erythrocyte membrane in ring‐infected erythrocytes is accessible to cleavage by phospholipase A. Studies are in progress to identify the molecular epitopes on the individual proteins within the complex responsible for lipid interaction in the erythrocyte bilayer and to determine the specificity of the phospholipid interaction using erythrocyte phospholipids. Copyright © 1992, Wiley Blackwell. All rights reserved