Decoding the language of var genes and Plasmodium falciparum sequestration

Trends Parasitol. 2001 Nov;17(11):538-45. doi: 10.1016/s1471-4922(01)02079-7.


Sequestration and rosetting are key determinants of Plasmodium falciparum pathogenesis. They are mediated by a large family of variant proteins called P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1). PfEMP1 proteins are multispecific binding receptors that are transported to parasite-induced, 'knob-like' binding structures at the erythrocyte surface. To evade immunity and extend infections, parasites clonally vary their expressed PfEMP1. Thus, PfEMP1 are functionally selected for binding while immune selection acts to diversify the family. Here, we describe a new way to analyse PfEMP1 sequence that provides insight into domain function and protein architecture with potential implications for malaria disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Erythrocytes / immunology*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Genes, Protozoan
  • Genetic Variation
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics*
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sequence Homology, Amino Acid


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • erythrocyte membrane protein 1, Plasmodium falciparum