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Skeleton-binding protein 1 functions at the parasitophorous vacuole membrane to traffic PfEMP1 to the Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocyte surface.

Maier AG, Rug M, O'Neill MT, Beeson JG, Marti M, Reeder J, Cowman AF

  • Journal Blood

  • Published 05 Oct 2006

  • Volume 109

  • ISSUE 3

  • Pagination 1289-97

  • DOI 10.1182/blood-2006-08-043364


A key feature of Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite causing the most severe form of malaria in humans, is its ability to export parasite molecules onto the surface of the erythrocyte. The major virulence factor and variant surface protein PfEMP1 (P falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1) acts as a ligand to adhere to endothelial receptors avoiding splenic clearance. Because the erythrocyte is devoid of protein transport machinery, the parasite provides infrastructure for trafficking across membranes it traverses. In this study, we show that the P falciparum skeleton-binding protein 1 (PfSBP1) is required for transport of PfEMP1 to the P falciparum-infected erythrocyte surface. We present evidence that PfSBP1 functions at the parasitophorous vacuole membrane to load PfEMP1 into Maurer clefts during formation of these structures. Furthermore, the major reactivity of antibodies from malaria-exposed multigravid women is directed toward PfEMP1 because this is abolished in the absence of PfSBP1.