Severe malarial anemia (SMA) is the main cause of malaria-associated infant mortality in malaria endemic countries. One major factor that contributes to SMA is the accumulation of uninfected red blood cells (uRBCs) in the spleen. We report the activation of adhesion molecules Lutheran/basal cell adhesion molecule (Lu/BCAM) and CD44 on uRBCs from Plasmodium falciparum in vitro cultures and patients with malaria that mediates adherence to the splenic extracellular matrix (ECM) components laminin-α5 and hyaluronic acid (HA), respectively. This tight ECM-adhesion molecule interaction was associated with elevated intracellular Ca2+ levels, increased shedding of microvesicles, and Lu/BCAM clustering on altered uRBCs. Moreover, we observed that a soluble parasite-derived factor promoted the adhesive phenotype of uRBCs, as the incubation of RBCs with filtered malaria-conditioned medium reproduced the same adhesive effect in malaria culture-derived uRBCs. Eventually, Lu/BCAM and CD44 activation facilitate the adherence to ECM components of the red pulp, resulting in the enhanced splenic retention of uRBCs. Our results suggest a novel adhesion molecule-dependent mechanism that augments malaria-induced anemia.
© 2022 by The American Society of Hematology. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0), permitting only noncommercial, nonderivative use with attribution. All other rights reserved.