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Reticulocyte and erythrocyte binding-like proteins function cooperatively in invasion of human erythrocytes by malaria parasites.

Lopaticki S, Maier AG, Thompson J, Wilson DW, Tham WH, Triglia T, Gout A, Speed TP, Beeson JG, Healer J, Cowman AF

  • Journal Infection and immunity

  • Published 13 Dec 2010

  • Volume 79

  • ISSUE 3

  • Pagination 1107-17

  • DOI 10.1128/IAI.01021-10


Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe form of malaria in humans and invades erythrocytes using multiple ligand-receptor interactions. Two important protein families involved in erythrocyte binding are the erythrocyte binding-like (EBL) and the reticulocyte binding-like (RBL or P. falciparum Rh [PfRh]) proteins. We constructed P. falciparum lines lacking expression of EBL proteins by creating single and double knockouts of the corresponding genes for eba-175, eba-181, and eba-140 and show that the EBL and PfRh proteins function cooperatively, consistent with them playing a similar role in merozoite invasion. We provide evidence that PfRh and EBL proteins functionally interact, as loss of function of EBA-181 ablates the ability of PfRh2a/b protein antibodies to inhibit merozoite invasion. Additionally, loss of function of some ebl genes results in selection for increased transcription of the PfRh family. This provides a rational basis for considering PfRh and EBL proteins for use as a combination vaccine against P. falciparum. We immunized rabbits with combinations of PfRh and EBL proteins to test the ability of antibodies to block merozoite invasion in growth inhibition assays. A combination of EBA-175, PfRh2a/b, and PfRh4 recombinant proteins induced antibodies that potently blocked merozoite invasion. This validates the use of a combination of these ligands as a potential vaccine that would have broad activity against P. falciparum.