Protein and lipid trafficking induced in erythrocytes infected by malaria parasites

Cell Microbiol. 2002 Jul;4(7):383-95. doi: 10.1046/j.1462-5822.2002.00204.x.


The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum develops in a parasitophorous vacuolar membrane (PVM) within the mature red cell and extensively modifies structural and antigenic properties of this host cell. Recent studies shed significant new, mechanistic perspective on the underlying processes. There is finally, definitive evidence that despite the absence of endocytosis, transmembrane proteins in the host red cell membrane are imported in to the PVM. These are not major erythrocyte proteins but components that reside in detergent resistant membrane (DRM) rafts in red cell membrane and are detected in rafts in the PVM. Disruption of either erythrocyte or vacuolar rafts is detrimental to infection suggesting that raft proteins and lipids are essential for the parasitization of the red cell. On secretory export of parasite proteins: an ER secretory signal (SS) sequence is required for protein secretion to the PV. Proteins carrying an additional plastid targeting sequence (PTS) are also detected in the PV but subsequently delivered to the plastid organelle within the parasite, suggesting that the PTS may have a second function as an endocytic sorting signal. A distinct but yet undefined peptidic motif underlies protein transport across the PVM to the red cell (although all of the published data does not yet fit this model). Further multiple exported proteins transit through secretory 'cleft' structures, suggesting that clefts may be sorting compartments assembled by the parasite in the red cell.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport, Active
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / blood
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Membrane Microdomains / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Protozoan Proteins / blood*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Vacuoles / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / parasitology


  • Blood Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins