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Blood. 2011 Aug 18;118(7):1923-33. doi: 10.1182/blood-2011-03-341305. Epub 2011 Jun 17.

Plasmodium falciparum uses a key functional site in complement receptor type-1 for invasion of human erythrocytes.

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  • 1Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


The Plasmodium falciparum adhesin PfRh4 binds to complement receptor type-1 (CR1) on human erythrocytes and mediates a glycophorin-independent invasion pathway. CR1 is a complement regulator and immune-adherence receptor on erythrocytes required for shuttling of C3b/C4b-opsonized particles to liver and spleen for phagocytosis. Using recombinant CR1 constructs, we mapped the recognition site for PfRh4 to complement control protein modules 1 to 3 (CCP1-3) at the membrane-distal amino terminus of CR1. This region of CR1 binds to C4b and C3b and accelerates decay of both classic pathway and alternative pathway C3 and C5 convertases. CCP1-3 competed for PfRh4 binding to erythroid CR1 and inhibited the PfRh4-CR1 invasion pathways across a wide range of P falciparum strains. PfRh4 did not bind significantly to other CR1 constructs, including CCP15-17, which is 85% identical to CCP1-3. PfRh4 binding to CR1 did not affect its C3b/C4b binding capability, and we show evidence for a ternary complex between CCP1-3, C4b, and PfRh4. PfRh4 binding specifically inhibited CR1's convertase decay-accelerating activity, whereas there was no effect on factor H-mediated decay-accelerating activity. These results increase our understanding of the functional implications of CR1 engagement with PfRh4 and highlight the interplay between complement regulation and infection.

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