Send to

Choose Destination
Nature. 1999 Apr 15;398(6728):618-22.

A rhoptry-protein-associated mechanism of clonal phenotypic variation in rodent malaria.

Author information

Division of Parasitology, National Institute for Medical Research, London, UK.


The recognition and invasion of host cells are mediated by components of the apical complex of the ookinete, sporozoite and merozoite stages of Plasmodium parasites. The paired rhoptries (organelles involved in host-cell recognition) in the apical complex contain many proteins of as-yet unknown function. In the rodent malaria agent P. yoelii yoelii, a multigene family codes for merozoite rhoptry proteins of relative molecular mass 235,000 (p235 proteins); these proteins are thought to determine the subset of erythrocytes that the parasites invade. Further support for this idea came from the identification of a region in p235 with weak but significant homology to reticulocyte-binding protein-2 of P. vivax and the demonstration that at least one p235 member binds to the erythrocyte surface membrane. Here, using single, micromanipulated P.y.yoelii parasites, we describe a new mechanism of gene expression by which the merozoites originating from a single schizont each express a distinct member of this multigene family. We propose that this new type of clonal phenotypic variation provides the parasite with a survival strategy in the mammalian host; this strategy contributes to the observed chronicity of malarial infections. This phenomenon is genetically and functionally distinct from classical antigenic variation, which is mediated by the var multigene family of P. falciparum.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Nature Publishing Group
Loading ...
Support Center