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J Biol Chem. 1999 Aug 20;274(34):23808-13.

Mapping the binding domains involved in the interaction between the Plasmodium falciparum knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP) and the cytoadherence ligand P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1).

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, Monash University, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia.


Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) clusters at electron-dense knob-like structures on the surface of malaria-infected red blood cells and mediates their adhesion to the vascular endothelium. In parasites lacking knobs, vascular adhesion is less efficient, and infected red cells are not able to immobilize successfully under hemodynamic flow conditions even though PfEMP1 is still present on the exterior of the infected red cell. We examined the interaction between the knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP), the parasite protein upon which knob formation is dependent, and PfEMP1, and we show evidence of a direct interaction between KAHRP and the cytoplasmic region of PfEMP1 (VARC). We have identified three fragments of KAHRP which bind VARC. Two of these KAHRP fragments (K1A and K2A) interact with VARC with binding affinities (K(D(kin))) of 1 x 10(-7) M and 3.3 x 10(-6) M respectively, values comparable to those reported previously for protein-protein interactions in normal and infected red cells. Further experiments localized the high affinity binding regions of KAHRP to the 63-residue histidine-rich and 70-residue 5' repeats. Deletion of these two regions from the KAHRP fragments abolished their ability to bind to VARC. Identification of the critical domains involved in interaction between KAHRP and PfEMP1 may aid development of new therapies to prevent serious complications of P. falciparum malaria.

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