Plasmodium falciparum-encoded exported hsp70/hsp40 chaperone/co-chaperone complexes within the host erythrocyte

Cell Microbiol. 2012 Nov;14(11):1784-95. doi: 10.1111/j.1462-5822.2012.01840.x. Epub 2012 Aug 24.


Malaria parasites modify their host cell, the mature human erythrocyte. We are interested in the molecules mediating these processes, and have recently described a family of parasite-encoded heat shock proteins (PfHsp40s) that are targeted to the host cell, and implicated in host cell modification. Hsp40s generally function as co-chaperones of members of the Hsp70 family, and until now it was thought that human Hsp70 acts as the PfHsp40 interaction partner within the host cell. Here we revise this hypothesis, and identify and characterize an exported parasite-encoded Hsp70, referred to as PfHsp70-x. PfHsp70-x is exported to the host erythrocyte where it forms a complex with PfHsp40s in structures known as J-dots, and is closely associated with PfEMP1. Interestingly, Hsp70-x is encoded only by parasite species that export the major virulence factor EMP1, implying a possible role for Hsp70-x in EMP1 presentation at the surface of the infected erythrocyte. Our data strongly support the presence of parasite-encoded chaperone/co-chaperone complexes within the host erythrocyte, which are involved in protein traffic through the host cell. The host-pathogen interaction within the infected erythrocyte is more complex than previously thought, and is driven notonly by parasite co-chaperones, but also by the parasite-encoded chaperone Hsp70-x itself.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • DNA, Protozoan / chemistry
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Erythrocytes / chemistry*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • HSP40 Heat-Shock Proteins / analysis*
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins / analysis*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions*
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protein Multimerization
  • Protein Transport
  • Protozoan Proteins / analysis*
  • Sequence Analysis, DNA


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • HSP40 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • HSP70 Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • erythrocyte membrane protein 1, Plasmodium falciparum

Associated data

  • GENBANK/JN900252