Publications & Reports

Interactions with heparin-like molecules during erythrocyte invasion by Plasmodium falciparum merozoites.

Boyle MJ, Richards JS, Gilson PR, Chai W, Beeson JG
Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Parkville, Victoria, Australia.


During erythrocyte invasion, Plasmodium falciparum merozoites use multiple receptor-ligand interactions in a series of coordinated events, but current knowledge of these interactions is limited. Using real-time imaging of invasion, we established that heparin-like molecules block early, and essential, events in erythrocyte invasion by merozoites. All P falciparum isolates tested, and parasites using different invasion pathways were inhibited to comparable levels. Furthermore, it was not possible to select for heparin-resistant parasites. Heparin-like molecules occur naturally on the surface of human erythrocytes, where they may act as receptors for binding of merozoite surface proteins. Consistent with this, we demonstrated that MSP1-42, a processed form of merozoite surface protein 1 (MSP1) involved in invasion, bound heparin in a specific manner; furthermore, binding was observed with the secondary processing fragment MSP1-33, but not MSP1-19. We defined key structural requirements of heparin-like molecules for invasion inhibition and interactions with MSP1-42. Optimal activity required a degree of sulfation more than or equal to 2, disulfation of the N-acetylglucosamine or hexuronic acid residue, and a minimum chain length of 6 monosaccharides. These findings have significant implications for understanding P falciparum invasion of erythrocytes and the development of novel therapeutics and vaccines.


  • Journal: Blood
  • Published: 03/06/2010
  • Volume: 115
  • Issue: 22
  • Pagination: 4559-4568