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Blood. 2004 Nov 15;104(10):3372-7. Epub 2004 Jun 17.

Characterization of the choline carrier of Plasmodium falciparum: a route for the selective delivery of novel antimalarial drugs.

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  • 1Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology Group, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, England.


New drugs are urgently needed to combat the growing problem of drug resistance in Plasmodium falciparum malaria. The infected erythrocyte is a multicompartmental system, and its transporters are of interest as drug targets in their own right and as potential routes for the delivery of antimalarial drugs. Choline is an important nutrient that penetrates infected erythrocyte membranes through the endogenous carrier and through parasite-induced permeability pathways, but nothing is known about its transport into the intracellular parasite. Here we present the first characterization of choline transport across the parasite membrane. Transport exhibits Michaelis-Menten kinetics with an apparent K(m) of 25.0 +/- 3.5 muM for choline. The carrier is inhibitor-sensitive, temperature-dependent, and Na(+)-independent, and it is driven by the proton-motive force. Highly active bis-amidine and bis-quaternary ammonium compounds are also known to penetrate the host erythrocyte membrane through parasite-induced permeability pathways. Here, we demonstrate that the parasite choline transporter mediates the delivery of these compounds to the intracellular parasite. Thus, the induced permeability pathways in the host erythrocyte membrane and the parasite choline transporter described here form a cooperative transport system that shows great promise for the selective targeting of new agents for the chemotherapy of malaria.

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