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Adv Parasitol. 2001;50:1-86.

The malaria-infected red blood cell: structural and functional changes.

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  • 1Department of Microbiology, P.O. Box 53, Monash University, Victoria 3800, Australia.


The asexual stage of malaria parasites of the genus Plasmodium invade red blood cells of various species including humans. After parasite invasion, red blood cells progressively acquire a new set of properties and are converted into more typical, although still simpler, eukaryotic cells by the appearance of new structures in the red blood cell cytoplasm, and new proteins at the red blood cell membrane skeleton. The red blood cell undergoes striking morphological alterations and its rheological properties are considerably altered, manifesting as red blood cells with increased membrane rigidity, reduced deformability and increased adhesiveness for a number of other cells including the vascular endothelium. Elucidation of the structural changes in the red blood cell induced by parasite invasion and maturation and an understanding of the accompanying functional alterations have the ability to considerably extend our knowledge of structure-function relationships in the normal red blood cell. Furthermore, interference with these interactions may lead to previously unsuspected means of reducing parasite virulence and may lead to the development of novel antimalarial therapeutics.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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