Direct access to serum macromolecules by intraerythrocytic malaria parasites

Nature. 1991 Sep 5;353(6339):73-5. doi: 10.1038/353073a0.


Trafficking pathways in malaria-infected erythrocytes are complex because the internal parasite is separated from the serum by the erythrocyte and parasitophorous vacuolar membranes. Intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum parasites can endocytose dextrans, protein A and an IgG2a antibody. Here we show that these macromolecules do not cross the erythrocyte or parasitophorous vacuolar membranes, but rather gain direct access to the aqueous space surrounding the parasite through a parasitophorous duct. Evidence for this structure includes visualization of membranes that are continuous between the parasitophorous vacuolar and erythrocyte membranes, and surface labelling of the parasite with fluorescent macromolecules under conditions that block endocytosis. The parasite can internalize by fluid-phase endocytosis macromolecules from the aqueous compartment surrounding it. Thus, surface antigens on trophozoites and schizonts should be considered as targets for antibody-directed parasiticidal agents.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Proteins / metabolism*
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Dextrans / metabolism
  • Endocytosis
  • Erythrocyte Membrane / metabolism
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Erythrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Fluorescein
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / metabolism
  • Microscopy, Fluorescence
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / ultrastructure
  • Rhodamines
  • Staphylococcal Protein A / metabolism


  • Blood Proteins
  • Dextrans
  • Fluoresceins
  • Fluorescent Dyes
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Rhodamines
  • Staphylococcal Protein A
  • Fluorescein