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Mol Microbiol. 2005 Dec;58(5):1264-75.

Two proteins with 6-cys motifs are required for malarial parasites to commit to infection of the hepatocyte.

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Mie University School of Medicine, Tsu, Mie, Japan.


Many intracellular pathogens have host cells suitable for their proliferation, and selectively invade them using specific host-parasite interactions. Malarial sporozoites, the liver-invasive forms, are effectively targeted to hepatocytes and proliferate in them. So far, however, sporozoite molecules that mediate the specific infection of hepatocytes remain unknown. Here we report that two proteins, Pbs36p and Pbs36, belonging to the plasmodium 6-cys domain protein family, carry out this function. We found that these molecules are specifically produced in liver-infective sporozoites. Target disruption of the respective genes nearly abolished sporozoite infectivity in the mammalian host. Invasion assays revealed that the mutant parasites could not commit to infection, even when they encounter with hepatocytes, resulting in continuous traversal of hepatocytes. These results suggest that these proteins are necessary for sporozoites to recognize hepatocytes and commit to infection. This finding might lead to novel anti-malarial strategies that prevent sporozoite infection of the hepatocyte.

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