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Parasitology. 1985 Oct;91 ( Pt 2):273-80.

Relation of red cell membrane properties to invasion by Plasmodium falciparum.


The effects of changes in red cell membrane properties on invasion by Plasmodium falciparum have been studied by varying the cholesterol content and the intracellular concentration of polyamines. Increased cholesterol content is known to cause large reductions in the internal fluidity of the phospholipid bilayer and a change in its preferred direction of bending, but does not cause changes in gross mechanical rigidity. Polyamines, on the other hand, are thought to increase the cohesion of the membrane cytoskeleton and impede translational diffusion of transmembrane particles, as well as increase the mechanical rigidity of the membrane. Cells with membranes augmented by 50% in cholesterol show no reduction in their susceptibility to parasitic invasion, whereas an increase in cytosolic polyamine (especially spermine) concentration leads to strong inhibition of invasion. In neither case is the development of the intracellular parasite affected. We conclude that it is the macroscopic, rather than the microscopic rheoelastic properties of the membrane that influence the invasion process. Depletion of membrane cholesterol leads to a substantial reduction in parasitaemia; it is suggested that this is linked to the reduced phosphorus incorporation into spectrin in these cells. Polyamines may exert a significant effect at physiological concentrations and the possibility must be considered that the elevated polyamine levels found in red cells in sickle cell disease may account for the protection against P. falciparum.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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