Role of the Plasmodium falciparum mature-parasite-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (MESA/PfEMP-2) in malarial infection of erythrocytes

Blood. 1995 Oct 15;86(8):3196-204.


During intraerythrocytic growth of Plasmodium falciparum, several parasite proteins are transported from the parasite to the erythrocyte membrane, where they bind to membrane skeletal proteins. Mature-parasite-infected erythrocyte surface antigen (MESA) has previously been shown to associate with host erythrocyte membrane skeletal protein 4.1. Using a spontaneous mutant of P falciparum that has lost the ability to synthesize MESA and 4.1-deficient erythrocytes, we examined growth of MESA(+) and MESA(-) parasites in normal and 4.1-deficient erythrocytes. Viability of MESA(+) parasites was reduced in 4.1-deficient erythrocytes as compared with that for normal erythrocytes, but MESA(-) parasites grew equally well in 4.1-deficient and normal erythrocytes. Cytoadherence of MESA(+)- and MESA (-)-parasitized normal and 4.1-deficient erythrocytes to C32 melanoma cells was similar, indicating that neither protein 4.1 nor MESA plays a major role in cytoadherence of infected erythrocytes. Localization of MESA in normal and 4.1-deficient erythrocytes was examined by confocal microscopy. MESA was diffusely distributed in the cytosol of 4.1-deficient erythrocytes but was membrane-associated in normal erythrocytes. These findings suggest that MESA binding to protein 4.1 plays a major role in intraerythrocytic parasite viability.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antigens, Protozoan / physiology*
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology*
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Malaria, Falciparum / blood*
  • Melanoma / pathology
  • Membrane Proteins / deficiency
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism*
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neuropeptides*
  • Peptides / physiology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Protein Binding
  • Protozoan Proteins / physiology*
  • Rabbits
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Cytoskeletal Proteins
  • MESA protein, Plasmodium falciparum
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neuropeptides
  • Peptides
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • erythrocyte membrane band 4.1 protein
  • erythrocyte membrane protein band 4.1-like 1
  • knob protein, Plasmodium falciparum