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J Clin Invest. 1986 Apr;77(4):1129-35.

Ribose metabolism and nucleic acid synthesis in normal and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase-deficient human erythrocytes infected with Plasmodium falciparum.


The metabolism of pentose-phosphate was investigated in Plasmodium falciparum-infected normal and glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD)-deficient human red blood cells in vitro. 5'-Phosphoribosyl-1-pyrophosphate (PRPP) content of infected normal red blood cells was increased 50-60-fold at the parasite trophozoite growth stage over that of uninfected cells. The PRPP increment in infected G6PD-deficient cells at comparable stage and parasitemia was only 40% of the value in normal infected cells. Red blood cell PRPP synthetase activity did not change during the growth cycle of the parasite and was similar in both normal and G6PD-deficient cells. Reduced glutathione (GSH) content of G6PD-deficient cells under conditions of culture fell to low or undetectable levels. These low levels of GSH were shown to inhibit the function of red blood cell PRPP synthetase, which requires GSH for full activity. Measurements of the incorporation of 1-14C or 6-14C selectively labeled glucose into parasite nucleic acids revealed that in normal infected red cells, approximately 20% of the pentose was produced via the oxidation of glucose-6-phosphate, whereas in infected G6PD-deficient cells (Mediterranean type), none of the pentose was produced via the oxidative pathway. It is concluded that the low level of reduced GSH found in G6PD deficiency and the resultant partial inhibition of PRPP synthetase together with the missing oxidative pathway for ribose phosphate production can account fully for the reduced parasite growth rate in G6PD-deficient red blood cells described previously. Of these two mechanisms, the predominant one is the impaired PRPP synthetase activity due to low GSH levels in enzyme-deficient red blood cells. The contribution to the ribose-phosphate pool by the hexose monophosphate shunt is relatively minor. A co-existing oxidative stress (which is often hypothesized to mediate the destruction of parasitized red blood cells) is not required to explain growth inhibition in this scheme and does not represent the most straight-forward explanation of the data described in this report.

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