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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2007 Nov 6;104(45):17789-94. Epub 2007 Oct 30.

Recombinant Plasmodium falciparum reticulocyte homology protein 4 binds to erythrocytes and blocks invasion.

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Laboratory of Malaria and Vector Research, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Twinbrook III, 12735 Twinbrook Parkway, Bethesda, MD 20892-8132, USA.


Plasmodium falciparum invasion of human erythrocytes involves several parasite and erythrocyte receptors that enable parasite invasion by multiple redundant pathways. A key challenge to the development of effective vaccines that block parasite infection of erythrocytes is identifying the players in these pathways and determining their function. Invasion by the parasite clone, Dd2, requires sialic acid on the erythrocyte surface; Dd2/NM is a variant selected for its ability to invade neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes that lack sialic acid. The P. falciparum protein, reticulocyte homology 4 (PfRH4), is uniquely up-regulated in Dd2/NM compared with Dd2, suggesting that it may be a parasite receptor involved in invasion. The aim of the present study was to determine the role of PfRH4 in invasion of erythrocytes and to determine whether it is a target of antibody-mediated blockade and thus a vaccine candidate. We show that both native PfRH4 and a recombinant 30-kDa protein to a conserved region of PfRH4 (rRH4(30)) bind strongly to neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes. rRH4(30) blocks both the erythrocyte binding of the native PfRH4 and invasion of neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes by Dd2/NM. Taken together, these results indicate that PfRH4 is a parasite receptor involved in sialic acid-independent invasion of erythrocytes. Although antibodies to rRH4(30) block binding of the native protein to erythrocytes, these antibodies failed to block invasion. These findings suggest that, although PfRH4 is required for invasion of neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes by Dd2/NM, it is inaccessible for antibody-mediated inhibition of the invasion process.

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