Cell-cell communication between malaria-infected red blood cells via exosome-like vesicles

Cell. 2013 May 23;153(5):1120-33. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2013.04.029. Epub 2013 May 15.


Cell-cell communication is an important mechanism for information exchange promoting cell survival for the control of features such as population density and differentiation. We determined that Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells directly communicate between parasites within a population using exosome-like vesicles that are capable of delivering genes. Importantly, communication via exosome-like vesicles promotes differentiation to sexual forms at a rate that suggests that signaling is involved. Furthermore, we have identified a P. falciparum protein, PfPTP2, that plays a key role in efficient communication. This study reveals a previously unidentified pathway of P. falciparum biology critical for survival in the host and transmission to mosquitoes. This identifies a pathway for the development of agents to block parasite transmission from the human host to the mosquito.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Actins / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Animals
  • Cell Communication*
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Drug Resistance
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Erythrocytes / pathology*
  • Exosomes / parasitology
  • Humans
  • Malaria, Falciparum / parasitology*
  • Malaria, Falciparum / pathology*
  • Microtubules / drug effects
  • Plasmids / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Trophozoites / physiology


  • Actins