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Parasite Immunol. 2000 Apr;22(4):191-9.

Cytoadherence of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes in the human placenta.

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Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale U13/Institut de Médecine et d'Epidémiologie Africaine, Hôpital Bichat-Claude Bernard, 46 rue Henri Huchard, 75018 Paris, France.


In Plasmodium falciparum-parasitized pregnant women, erythrocytes infected by mature stages of the parasite sequester into placental intervillous spaces. The presence of parasites in the placenta causes maternal anaemia and low birth weight of the infant. In-vitro studies suggest placental sequestration may involve the cytoadherence of infected erythrocytes to chondroitin sulphate A (CSA) and/or intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) expressed by human placental syncytiotrophoblast. We identified P. falciparum receptors expressed on the surface of human syncytiotrophoblast using immunofluorescence of placental biopsies from Cameroon, a malaria-endemic area. In all placentas, a strongly positive staining was observed on the syncytiotrophoblast for CSA, but not for ICAM-1, vascular endothelium cell adhesion molecule-1, E-selectin, nor CD36. The cytoadherence ability of parasites from pregnant women and nonpregnant subjects was assessed on in-vitro cultured syncytiotrophoblast. Parasites from pregnant women bound to the trophoblast via CSA but not ICAM-1. Parasites from nonpregnant hosts either did not bind to the trophoblast culture or bound using ICAM-1. Our data support the idea that placental sequestration may result from cytoadherence to placental trophoblast and that pregnant women are parasitized by parasites that differ from parasites derived from nonpregnant host by their cytoadherence ability.

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