Ultrastructure of malaria-infected erythrocytes

Blood Cells. 1990;16(2-3):351-68.


Knobs, caveolae, caveola-vesicle complexes, cytoplasmic clefts, and electron-dense material are five major ultrastructural changes found in the membrane skeleton and cytoplasm of erythrocytes infected with species of primate malaria. Knobs are electron-dense, conical evaginations of the erythrocyte surface, which are believed to mediate cytoadherence and sequestration of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes. Caveolae and caveola-vesicle complexes are flask-shaped invaginations of the membrane skeleton, which may be involved in the uptake or export of host- or parasite-derived substances. Cytoplasmic clefts are flattened or circular membranous structures found in the erythrocyte cytoplasm between the intracellular parasite and the host cell surface. The clefts are variable in length and bounded by two or more membranes. Fine, granular electron-dense material is often found on the cytoplasmic face of clefts or in amorphous packets in the erythrocyte cytoplasm. Immunocytochemistry has demonstrated that all of these ultrastructural changes are associated with the trafficking and interaction of specific malarial antigens with the host erythrocyte.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Erythrocytes / ultrastructure
  • Humans
  • Malaria / blood*
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Plasmodium / physiology
  • Plasmodium / ultrastructure