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Int J Parasitol. 2010 Aug 15;40(10):1127-35. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2010.04.012. Epub 2010 May 15.

Cellular architecture of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes.

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Department of Biochemistry and Centre of Excellence for Coherent X-ray Science, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC. 3086, Australia.


Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite that is responsible for the most pathogenic form of human malaria. The particular virulence of this parasite derives from its ability to develop within the erythrocytes of its host and to subvert their function. The intraerythrocytic parasite devours haemoglobin, and remodels its host cell to cause adhesion to blood vessel walls. Ultrastructural studies of P. falciparum have played a major role in defining its cell architecture and in resolving cell biology controversies. Here we review some of the early studies and describe some recent developments in electron microscopy techniques that have revealed information about the organization of the parasite in the blood stage of development. We present images of P. falciparum at different stages of the life cycle and highlight some of the plasmodium-specific organelles, the haemoglobin digestive apparatus and the membrane structures that are elaborated in the host cell cytoplasm to traffic virulence proteins to the erythrocyte surface. We describe methods for whole cell ultrastructural imaging that can provide three-dimensional views of intraerythrocytic development.

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