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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 1996 Apr 16;93(8):3497-502.

Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 is a parasitized erythrocyte receptor for adherence to CD36, thrombospondin, and intercellular adhesion molecule 1.

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  • 1Affymax Research Institute, Santa Clara, CA 95051, USA.


Adherence of mature Plasmodium falciparum parasitized erythrocytes (PRBCs) to microvascular endothelium contributes directly to acute malaria pathology. We affinity purified molecules from detergent extracts of surface-radioiodinated PRBCs using several endothelial cell receptors known to support PRBC adherence, including CD36, thrombospondin (TSP), and intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1). All three host receptors affinity purified P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), a very large malarial protein expressed on the surface of adherent PRBCs. Binding of PfEMP1 to particular host cell receptors correlated with the binding phenotype of the PRBCs from which PfEMP1 was extracted. Preadsorption of PRBC extracts with anti-PfEMP1 antibodies, CD36, or TSP markedly reduced PfEMP1 binding to CD36 or TSP. Mild trypsinization of intact PRBCs of P. falciparum strains shown to express antigenically different PfEMP1 released different (125)I-labeled tryptic fragments of PfEMP1 that bound specifically to CD36 and TSP. In clone C5 and strain MC, these activities resided on different tryptic fragments, but a single tryptic fragment from clone ItG-ICAM bound to both CD36 and TSP. Hence, the CD36- and TSP-binding domains are distinct entities located on a single PfEMP1 molecule. PfEMP1, the malarial variant antigen on infected erythrocytes, is therefore a receptor for CD36, TSP, and ICAM-1. A therapeutic approach to block or reverse adherence of PRBCs to host cell receptors can now be pursued with the identification of PfEMP1 as a malarial receptor for PRBC adherence to host proteins.

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