Differential adhesive properties of sequestered asexual and sexual stages of Plasmodium falciparum on human endothelial cells are tissue independent

PLoS One. 2012;7(2):e31567. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0031567. Epub 2012 Feb 21.


The protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum, responsible for the most severe form of malaria, is able to sequester from peripheral circulation during infection. The asexual stage parasites sequester by binding to endothelial cell receptors in the microvasculature of various organs. P. falciparum gametocytes, the developmental stages responsible for parasite transmission from humans to Anopheles mosquitoes, also spend the almost ten days necessary for their maturation sequestered away from the peripheral circulation before they are released in blood mainstream. In contrast to those of asexual parasites, the mechanisms and cellular interactions responsible for immature gametocyte sequestration are largely unexplored, and controversial evidence has been produced so far on this matter. Here we present a systematic comparison of cell binding properties of asexual stages and immature and mature gametocytes from the reference P. falciparum clone 3D7 and from a patient parasite isolate on a panel of human endothelial cells from different tissues. This analysis includes assays on human bone marrow derived endothelial cell lines (HBMEC), as this tissue has been proposed as a major site of gametocyte maturation. Our results clearly demonstrate that cell adhesion of asexual stage parasites is consistently more efficient than that, virtually undetectable of immature gametocytes, irrespectively of the endothelial cell lines used and of parasite genotypes. Importantly, immature gametocytes of both lines tested here do not show a higher binding efficiency compared to asexual stages on bone marrow derived endothelial cells, unlike previously reported in the only study on this issue. This indicates that gametocyte-host interactions in this tissue are unlikely to be mediated by the same adhesion processes to specific endothelial receptors as seen with asexual forms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Bone Marrow Cells / drug effects
  • Bone Marrow Cells / parasitology
  • Cell Adhesion / drug effects
  • Chemokine CXCL12 / pharmacology
  • Dermis / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Endothelial Cells / parasitology*
  • Germ Cells / cytology
  • Germ Cells / drug effects
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / cytology
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / drug effects
  • Human Umbilical Vein Endothelial Cells / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-1beta / pharmacology
  • Life Cycle Stages* / drug effects
  • Microvessels / cytology
  • Organ Specificity / drug effects*
  • Parasites / cytology
  • Parasites / drug effects
  • Parasites / growth & development
  • Parasites / isolation & purification
  • Plasmodium falciparum / cytology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / drug effects
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / isolation & purification
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / pharmacology


  • Chemokine CXCL12
  • Interleukin-1beta
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha