Production of erythropoietic cells in vitro for continuous culture of Plasmodium vivax

Int J Parasitol. 2007 Dec;37(14):1551-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2007.05.009. Epub 2007 Jun 7.


Plasmodium vivax cannot be maintained in a continuous culture. To overcome this major obstacle to P. vivax research, we have developed an in vitro method to produce susceptible red blood cell (RBC) precursors from freshly isolated human cord hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs), which were activated with erythropoietin to differentiate into erythroid cells. Differentiation and maturation of erythroid cells were monitored using cell surface markers (CD71, CD36, GPA and Fy6). Duffy(+) reticulocytes appeared after 10 days of erythroid cell culture and exponentially increased to high numbers on days 14-16. Beginning on day 10 these erythroid cells, referred to as growing RBCs (gRBCs), were co-cultured with P. vivax-infected blood directly isolated from patients. Parasite-infected gRBCs were detected by Giemsa staining and a P. vivax-specific immunofluorescence assay in 11 out of 14 P. vivax isolates. These P. vivax cultures were continuously maintained for more than 2 weeks by supplying fresh gRBCs; one was maintained for 85 days before discontinuing the culture. Our results demonstrate that gRBCs derived in vitro from HSCs can provide susceptible Duffy(+) reticulocytes for continuous culture of P. vivax. Of particular interest, we discovered that parasites were able to invade nucleated erythroid cells or erythroblasts that are normally in the bone marrow. The possibility that P. vivax causes erythroblast destruction and hence inflammation in the bone marrow needs to be addressed.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation / physiology
  • Coculture Techniques
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Erythroid Precursor Cells / parasitology*
  • Erythropoiesis
  • Fetal Blood / cytology
  • Malaria, Vivax / parasitology*
  • Parasitology / methods
  • Plasmodium vivax / growth & development*