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Antimicrob Agents Chemother. Jan 1992; 36(1): 50–55.
PMCID: PMC189224

Use of radioactive ethanolamine incorporation into phospholipids to assess in vitro antimalarial activity by the semiautomated microdilution technique.


Phospholipid biosynthetic activity is intense in the erythrocytic stage of Plasmodium falciparum because of the parasite's own enzymatic machinery. The incorporation of various labeled phospholipid precursors in comparison with the incorporation of nucleic acid and protein precursors was tested to evaluate P. falciparum growth in vitro. These precursors, namely, [3H]ethanolamine, [3H]hypoxanthine, [3H]palmitate, [14C]serine, [3H]choline, [3H]inositol, and [3H]isoleucine, were all accurate indicators of parasite growth. However, because of its high level of incorporation, [3H]ethanolamine proved to be the best tool for assessing parasite viability. When culture parameters were carefully controlled, [3H]ethanolamine incorporation into phospholipids was proportional to pulse time, precursor concentration, and initial parasitemia and was sensitive to the number of uninfected erythrocytes (hematocrit). It can be used for a wide range of infected erythrocytes, from 2 x 10(4) to 5 x 10(5). The use of [3H]ethanolamine for in vitro antimalarial drug screening is a good alternative to the method of Desjardins et al. (R. E. Desjardins, C. J. Canfield, J. D. Haynes, and J. D. Chulay, Antimicrob. Agents. Chemother. 16:710-718, 1979). The major advantage is that the culture medium can be supplemented with hypoxanthine, which results in better parasite growth. [3H]ethanolamine is also an ideal tool when compounds that interfere with DNA and/or RNA metabolism are to be investigated for their effect on Plasmodium growth.

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