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Malar J. 2011 Jan 25;10:17. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-10-17.

var gene transcription and PfEMP1 expression in the rosetting and cytoadhesive Plasmodium falciparum clone FCR3S1.2.

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Department of Microbiology, Tumor and Cell Biology (MTC), Karolinska Institutet, Box 280, SE-171 77 Stockholm, Sweden.



The pathogenicity of Plasmodium falciparum is in part due to the ability of the parasitized red blood cell (pRBC) to adhere to intra-vascular host cell receptors and serum-proteins. Binding of the pRBC is mediated by Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), a large multi-variant molecule encoded by a family of ≈60 var genes.


The study of var gene transcription in the parasite clone FCR3S1.2 was performed by semi-quantitative PCR and quantitative PCR (qPCR). The expression of the major PfEMP1 in FCR3S1.2 pRBC was analysed with polyclonal sera in rosette disruption assays and immunofluorescence.


Transcripts from var1 (FCR3S1.2(var1); IT4var21) and other var genes were detected by semi-quantitative PCR but results from qPCR showed that one var gene transcript dominated over the others (FCR3S1.2(var2); IT4var60). Antibodies raised in rats to the recombinant NTS-DBL1α of var2 produced in E. coli completely and dose-dependently disrupted rosettes (≈95% at a dilution of 1/5). The sera reacted with the Maurer's clefts in trophozoite stages (IFA) and to the infected erythrocyte surface (FACS) indicating that FCR3S1.2(var2) encodes the dominant PfEMP1 expressed in this parasite.


The major transcript in the rosetting model parasite FCR3S1.2 is FCR3S1.2(var2) (IT4var60). The results suggest that this gene encodes the PfEMP1-species responsible for the rosetting phenotype of this parasite. The activity of previously raised antibodies to the NTS-DBL1α of FCR3S1.2(var1) is likely due to cross-reactivity with NTS-DBL1α of the var2 encoded PfEMP1.

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