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Nat Med. 1997 Dec;3(12):1405-8.

PECAM-1/CD31, an endothelial receptor for binding Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes.

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Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center, Karolinska Institutet, and Swedish Institute for Infectious Disease Control, Stockholm.


Excessive binding of Plasmodium falciparum-infected red blood cells (pRBCs) to the vascular endothelium (cytoadherence) and to uninfected erythrocytes (rosetting) may lead to occlusion of the microvasculature and thereby contribute directly to the acute pathology of severe human malaria. A number of endothelial receptors have been identified as targets for the pRBCs, including CD36, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1) and chondroitin-4-sulfate (CSA). In vitro, CD36 is the most frequent target of strains from patients with mild as well as severe P. falciparum malaria, but is expressed at low levels on the cerebral microvasculature and therefore seems unlikely to be involved in the evolution of cerebral disease. Strains of P. falciparum that form rosettes are associated both with the occurrence of cerebral malaria and severe anemia. Here we report that malaria-infected RBCs adhere to platelet/endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1/CD31) on the vascular endothelium. pRBCs bind to endothelial cells, to PECAM-1/CD31 transfected cells, and directly to recombinant PECAM-1/CD31 absorbed onto plastic. Soluble PECAM-1/CD31 and monoclonal antibodies specific for the amino-terminal segment of PECAM-1/CD31 (domains 1-4) blocked the binding. Interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma)-essential for the development of cerebral malaria in the mouse-was found to augment adhesion of human pRBCs to PECAM-1/CD31 on endothelial cell monolayers. Our results suggest that PECAM-1/CD31 is a virulence-associated endothelial receptor of P. falciparum-infected RBCs.

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