Trafficking determinants for PfEMP3 export and assembly under the Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cell membrane

Mol Microbiol. 2005 Nov;58(4):1039-53. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2958.2005.04895.x.


During the maturation of intracellular asexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum parasite-encoded proteins are exported into the erythrocyte cytosol. A number of these parasite proteins attach to the host cell cytoskeleton and facilitate transformation of a disk-shaped erythrocyte into a rounded and more rigid infected erythrocyte able to cytoadhere to the vasculature. Knob formation on the surface of infected erythrocytes is critical for this cytoadherence to the host endothelium. P. falciparum proteins have been identified that localize to the parasite-infected erythrocyte membrane: the variant cytoadherence ligand erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), the knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP) and the erythrocyte membrane protein 3 (PfEMP3). In this study, we have generated parasites expressing PfEMP3-green fluorescent protein chimeras and identified domains involved in entry to the secretory pathway, export across the parasitophorous vacuolar membrane and attachment to Maurer's clefts and the erythrocyte membrane. Solubility assays, fluorescence photobleaching experiments and immunogold electron microscopy suggest that the exported chimeric proteins are trafficked in a complex rather than in vesicles. This study characterizes elements involved in the tight but transient binding of PfEMP3 to Maurer's clefts and shows that the same elements are necessary for correct assembly under the erythrocyte membrane.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cell Membrane / chemistry
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / parasitology
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / genetics
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Proteins / chemistry*
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Structure, Tertiary
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / chemistry*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism*
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins / metabolism


  • EMP3 protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • Recombinant Fusion Proteins
  • Green Fluorescent Proteins