Malaria sporozoites actively enter and pass through rat Kupffer cells prior to hepatocyte invasion

Hepatology. 2001 May;33(5):1154-65. doi: 10.1053/jhep.2001.24237.


Malaria sporozoites have to cross the layer of sinusoidal liver cells to reach their initial site of multiplication in the mammalian host, the hepatocytes. To determine the sinusoidal cell type sporozoites use for extravasation, endothelia or Kupffer cells, we quantified sporozoite adhesion to and invasion of sinusoidal cells isolated from rat liver. In vitro invasion assays reveal that Plasmodium berghei and P. yoelii sporozoites attach to and enter Kupffer cells, but not sinusoidal endothelia. Unlike hepatocytes and other nonphagocytic cells, which are invaded in vitro only within the first hour of parasite exposure, the number of intracellular sporozoites in Kupffer cells increases for up to 12 hours. By confocal and electron microscopy, sporozoites are enclosed in a vacuole that does not colocalize with lysosomal markers. Inhibition of phagocytosis with gadolinium chloride has no effect on Kupffer cell invasion, but abolishes phagocytosis of inactivated sporozoites. Furthermore, sporozoites traverse in vitro from Kupffer cells to hepatocytes where they eventually develop into exoerythrocytic schizonts. Thus, malaria sporozoites selectively recognize and actively invade Kupffer cells, avoid phagosomal acidification, and safely passage through these phagocytes.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology*
  • Hepatocytes / ultrastructure
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Intracellular Membranes / parasitology
  • Kupffer Cells / parasitology*
  • Kupffer Cells / physiology*
  • Kupffer Cells / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Plasmodium berghei / physiology*
  • Plasmodium berghei / ultrastructure
  • Plasmodium yoelii / physiology*
  • Plasmodium yoelii / ultrastructure
  • Rats
  • Rats, Inbred BN