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Mol Microbiol. 2007 Jul;65(2):231-49.

Invasion of host cells by malaria parasites: a tale of two protein families.

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Nanyang Technological University, School of Biological Sciences, 60 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637551, Singapore.


Malaria parasites are obligate intracellular parasites whose invasive stages select and invade the unique host cell in which they can develop with exquisite specificity and efficacy. Most studies aimed at elucidating the molecules and the mechanisms implicated in the selection and invasion processes have been conducted on the merozoite, the stage that invades erythrocytes to perpetuate the pathological cycles of parasite multiplication in the blood. Bioinformatic analysis has helped identify the members of two parasite protein families, the reticulocyte-binding protein homologues (RBL) and erythrocyte binding like (EBL), in recently sequenced genomes of different Plasmodium species. In this article we review data from classical studies and gene disruption experiments that are helping to illuminate the role of these proteins in the selection-invasion processes. The manner in which subsets of proteins from each of the families act in concert suggests a model to explain the ability of the parasites to use alternate pathways of invasion. Future perspectives and implications are discussed.

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