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Cell Microbiol. 2007 Apr;9(4):1004-13.

Quantitative pH measurements in Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes using pHluorin.

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Hygiene Institut, Abteilung Parasitologie, Universitätsklinikum Heidelberg, Im Neuenheimer Feld 324, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany.


The digestive vacuole of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is the site of action of several antimalarial drugs, such as chloroquine, which accumulate in this organelle due to their properties as amphiphilic weak bases that inhibit haem detoxification. It has been suggested that changes in the pH of the digestive vacuole, affecting either drug partitioning or haem solubility and/or biomineralization rates, would correlate with reduced intracellular chloroquine accumulation and, hence, would determine the chloroquine-resistance phenotype. The techniques previously used to quantify digestive vacuolar pH mainly relied on lysed or isolated parasites, with unpredictable consequences on internal pH homeostasis. In this study, we have investigated the baseline steady-state pH of the cytoplasm and digestive vacuole of a chloroquine-sensitive (HB3) and a chloroquine-resistant (Dd2) parasite using a pH-sensitive green fluorescent protein, termed pHluorin. This non-invasive technique allows for in vivo pH measurements in intact P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes under physiological conditions. The data suggest that the pH of the cytoplasm is approximately 7.15 +/- 0.07 and that of the digestive vacuole approximately 5.18 +/- 0.05. No significant differences in baseline pH values were recorded for the chloroquine-sensitive and chloroquine-resistant parasites.

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