A distinctive pathological feature of Plasmodium falciparum malaria is the endothelial attachment of erythrocytes infected with mature asexual-stage parasites in microvessels of the major organs. Electron-dense protrusions described as knobs are displayed on the surface of parasitized erythrocytes and act as attachment points in cytoadherence. Parasite-encoded knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP) is a major component of knobs found on the cytoplasmic side of the host cell membrane. P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) is a family of parasite-encoded cytoadherence receptors localized to knobs on the surface of parasitized erythrocytes. Despite its high antigenic diversity, PfEMP1 has a remarkably conserved cytoplasmic domain. We demonstrate in this study that the cytoplasmic domain of PfEMP1 (VAR(CD)) binds to host spectrin and actin and to full-length KAHRP in vitro. Apparent dissociation constants determined for VAR(CD)/F-actin and VAR(CD)/KAHRP interactions are 44.9+/-6.4 and 10. 7+/-2.2 nM, respectively. Further, we provide evidence that KAHRP polypeptides self-associate in solution to form structures similar to knobs and show binding of self-associated KAHRP clusters to spectrin-actin-protein 4.1 complexes. Findings in this study suggest that PfEMP1 is localized to the knob in P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes by binding to the host spectrin-actin junction and to self-associated KAHRP through its conserved cytoplasmic domain.