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Cell Host Microbe. 2008 Feb 14;3(2):88-96. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2007.12.007.

Host cell traversal is important for progression of the malaria parasite through the dermis to the liver.

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Unité de Biologie et Génétique du Paludisme, Institut Pasteur, 28 Rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Paris cedex 15, France.


The malaria sporozoite, the parasite stage transmitted by the mosquito, is delivered into the dermis and differentiates in the liver. Motile sporozoites can invade host cells by disrupting their plasma membrane and migrating through them (termed cell traversal), or by forming a parasite-cell junction and settling inside an intracellular vacuole (termed cell infection). Traversal of liver cells, observed for sporozoites in vivo, is thought to activate the sporozoite for infection of a final hepatocyte. Here, using Plasmodium berghei, we show that cell traversal is important in the host dermis for preventing sporozoite destruction by phagocytes and arrest by nonphagocytic cells. We also show that cell infection is a pathway that is masked, rather than activated, by cell traversal. We propose that the cell traversal activity of the sporozoite must be turned on for progression to the liver parenchyma, where it must be switched off for infection of a final hepatocyte.

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