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Br J Haematol. 2012 Apr;157(1):116-24. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2141.2011.09015.x. Epub 2012 Jan 20.

Transfer of 4-hydroxynonenal from parasitized to non-parasitized erythrocytes in rosettes. Proposed role in severe malaria anemia.

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Department of Genetics, Biology and Biochemistry, University of Torino Medical School, Turin, Italy.


Severe anaemia is a life-threatening complication of falciparum malaria associated with loss of predominantly non-parasitized red blood cells (npRBCs). This poorly elucidated process might be influenced by (i) rosettes, i.e. npRBCs cytoadherent to haemozoin-containing parasitized RBCs (pRBCs) and (ii) generation in pRBCs of 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE) through haemozoin-catalysed lipid peroxidation. We explored whether close proximity in rosettes may facilitate 4-HNE transfer to npRBCs, which is likely to enhance their phagocytosis and contribute to malaria anaemia. Fluorescence microscopy and flow cytometry data indicated 4-HNE transfer to npRBCs in rosettes. Rosettes were formed by 64·8 ± 1·8% varO-expressing pRBCs, and 8·7 ± 1·1% npRBCs were positive for 4-HNE-protein-conjugates, while low-rosetting parasites generated only 2·4 ± 1·1% 4-HNE-conjugate-positive npRBCs. 4-HNE transfer decreased after blocking rosetting by monoclonal antibodies. A positive linear relationship between rosette frequency and 4-HNE-conjugates in npRBCs was found in 40 malaria patients, a first indication for a role of rosetting in npRBCs modifications in vivo. Children with severe malaria anaemia had significantly higher percentages of 4-HNE-conjugate-positive npRBCs compared to children with uncomplicated malaria. In conclusion, 4-HNE transfer from pRBCs to npRBCs in rosettes is suggested to play a role in the phagocytic removal of large numbers of npRBCs, the hallmark of severe malaria anaemia.

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