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A major part of virulence for Plasmodium falciparum malaria infection, the most lethal parasitic disease of humans, results from increased rigidity and adhesiveness of infected host red cells. These changes are caused by parasite proteins exported to the erythrocyte using novel trafficking machinery assembled in the host cell. To understand these unique modifications, we used a large-scale gene knockout strategy combined with functional screens to identify proteins exported into parasite-infected erythrocytes and involved in remodeling these cells. Eight genes were identified encoding proteins required for export of the parasite adhesin PfEMP1 and assembly of knobs that function as physical platforms to anchor the adhesin. Additionally, we show that multiple proteins play a role in generating increased rigidity of infected erythrocytes. Collectively these proteins function as a pathogen secretion system, similar to bacteria and may provide targets for antivirulence based therapies to a disease responsible for millions of deaths annually.

Original publication

DOI

10.1016/j.cell.2008.04.051

Type

Journal article

Journal

Cell

Publication Date

11/07/2008

Volume

134

Pages

48 - 61

Keywords

Animals, Cell Adhesion, Cell Shape, Erythrocyte Membrane, Erythrocytes, Humans, Malaria, Falciparum, Plasmodium falciparum, Protein Transport, Protozoan Proteins, Virulence