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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2006 Feb;145(2):205-15. Epub 2005 Oct 25.

Upregulation of expression of the reticulocyte homology gene 4 in the Plasmodium falciparum clone Dd2 is associated with a switch in the erythrocyte invasion pathway.

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Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research (LMVR), National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/NIH, 12735 Twinbrook Parkway, Building Twinbrook III/Room 3E-32D, Bethesda, MD 20892-8132, USA.


The Plasmodium falciparum clone, Dd2, that requires sialic acid for invasion can switch to a sialic acid independent pathway, Dd2(NM). To elucidate the molecular basis of the switch in invasion phenotype of Dd2 to Dd2(NM), we performed expression profiling of the parasites using an oligonucleotide microarray and real-time RT-PCR. We found that four genes were upregulated in Dd2(NM) by microarray analysis, only two of which could be confirmed by real time RT-PCR. One gene, PfRH4, is a member of the reticulocyte homology family and the other, PEBL, is a pseudogene of the Duffy binding-like family. The two genes are contiguous but transcribed in opposite directions. The DNA sequence of these ORFs, their 5'-intergenic region and a 1.1kb region 3' to each ORF are identical between Dd2 and Dd2(NM), suggesting that their transcription upregulation relates to transactivating factors. The transcription upregulation of PfRH4 was reflected at the protein level as PfRH4 protein expression was detected in Dd2(NM) and not in Dd2. Other sialic acid independent and dependent clones of P. falciparum showed variable transcript levels of PfRH4 and PEBL, unrelated to their dependence on sialic acid for invasion, suggesting that different P. falciparum clones use different receptors for sialic acid independent invasion. As Dd2(NM) is a selected subclone of Dd2, the marked upregulation of PfRH4 expression in Dd2(NM) suggests its role in erythrocyte invasion through the sialic acid independent pathway of Dd2(NM).

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