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J Lab Clin Med. 1993 Nov;122(5):581-9.

Membrane rigidity of red blood cells parasitized by different strains of Plasmodium falciparum.

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Department of Haematology, Medical School, University of Birmingham, UK.


Changes in the structure of parasitized red blood cells may influence their ability to circulate. We have used a micropipette technique to examine the effects of invasion and maturation of Plasmodium falciparum on the membrane rigidity of red blood cells. In the presence of immature, ring form parasites from different laboratory strains, membrane rigidity remained unchanged as compared with uninfected red cells. However, development of more mature pigmented trophozoites caused a marked increase in membrane rigidity. Parasites from knobless strains caused a less-pronounced increase than parasites from knob-positive strains. Using closely synchronized cultures, the dependence of membrane rigidity on parasite maturation was studied in more detail for selected knob-positive and knobless strains. Over a period of 12 hours, while trophozoites developed into schizonts, no further rigidification of the red cell membrane occurred. The increase in membrane rigidity, occurring with the initial development of pigmented trophozoites, may be related to insertion of neoantigens into the red cell surface or modification of native membrane proteins that also occur at this time. In contrast to others, we found no effect of parasite-culture supernatant, harvested at different stages, on the rigidity of uninfected cells exposed to it. Interstrain variation of membrane rigidity could influence pathophysiology in several ways: by promoting margination and cytoadherence of knob-positive strains in the microcirculation, by modulating clearance of parasitized cells by the reticuloendothelial system, and by influencing ischemic complications of severe falciparum malaria.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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