Assignment of functional roles to parasite proteins in malaria-infected red blood cells by competitive flow-based adhesion assay

Br J Haematol. 2002 Apr;117(1):203-11. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-2141.2002.03404.x.


Adhesion of parasitized red blood cells (PRBCs) to endothelial cells and subsequent accumulation in the microvasculature are pivotal events in the pathogenesis of falciparum malaria. During intraerythrocytic development, numerous proteins exported from the parasite associate with the RBC membrane skeleton but the precise function of many of these proteins remain unknown. Their cellular location, however, suggests that some may play a role in adhesion. The adhesive properties of PRBCs are best studied under flow conditions in vitro; however, experimental variation in levels of cytoadherence in currently available assays make subtle alterations in adhesion difficult to quantify. Here, we describe a flow-based assay that can quantify small differences in adhesion and document the extent to which a number of parasite proteins influence adhesion using parasite lines that no longer express specific proteins. Loss of parasite proteins ring-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (RESA), knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP) or Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 3 (PfEMP3) had a significant effect on the ability of PRBCs to adhere, whereas loss of mature parasite-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (MESA) had no effect. Our studies indicate that a number of membrane skeleton-associated parasite proteins, although not exposed on the RBC surface, can collectively affect the adhesive properties of PRBCs and further our understanding of pathophysiologically relevant structure/function relationships in malaria-infected RBCs.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CD36 Antigens / metabolism
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Line
  • Endothelium, Vascular*
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / parasitology*
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Gene Deletion
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / blood*
  • Membrane Proteins / genetics
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Peptides / genetics
  • Peptides / metabolism
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Protozoan Proteins / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*


  • CD36 Antigens
  • EMP3 protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Peptides
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • knob protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • ring-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (RESA), Plasmodium falciparum