Protein trafficking in Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells

Trends Parasitol. 2004 Dec;20(12):581-9. doi: 10.1016/


Plasmodium falciparum inhabits a niche within the most highly terminally differentiated cell in the human body--the mature red blood cell. Life inside this normally quiescent cell offers the parasite protection from the host's immune system, but provides little in the way of cellular infrastructure. To survive and replicate in the red blood cell, the parasite exports proteins that interact with and dramatically modify the properties of the host red blood cell. As part of this process, the parasite appears to establish a system within the red blood cell cytosol that allows the correct trafficking of parasite proteins to their final cellular destinations. In this review, we examine recent developments in our understanding of the pathways and components involved in the delivery of important parasite-encoded proteins to their final destination in the host red blood cell. These complex processes are not only fundamental to the survival of malaria parasites in vivo, but are also major determinants of the unique pathogenicity of this parasite.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / parasitology
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / metabolism
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum / parasitology
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Erythrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Golgi Apparatus / metabolism
  • Golgi Apparatus / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / metabolism*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Vacuoles / metabolism
  • Vacuoles / parasitology


  • Protozoan Proteins