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Exp Parasitol. 1999 Feb;91(2):133-43.

Plasmodium falciparum: molecular background to strain-specific rosette disruption by glycosaminoglycans and sulfated glycoconjugates.

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Microbiology and Tumor Biology Center, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden.


Rosetting, the adhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes to uninfected erythrocytes, is a virulent parasite phenotype associated with the occurrence of severe malaria, e.g., cerebral malaria. Compounds with specific anti-rosetting activity are potential therapeutic agents. Glycosaminoglycans and sulfated glycoconjugates were found to disrupt rosettes in a strain- and isolate-specific manner. Rosette disruption was strongly connected to the presence of N-sulfate groups in heparin/heparan sulfate as demonstrated by modified heparin preparations. This finding was corroborated by the disruption of rosettes with mono- and disaccharides derived from heparin/heparan sulfate that contained N-sulfated glucosamine. Furthermore, heparinase III treatment of erythrocyte cultures infected by FCR3S1 (and to some extent TM 284) P. falciparum strains abolished rosetting. Heparinase III treatment of the uninfected erythrocytes prior to mixing with the infected culture impeded formation of rosettes, indicating that the rosetting receptors at least partially are of glycosaminoglycan nature.

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