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The pathogenicity of Plasmodium falciparum is due largely to the parasite's unique ability to adhere to capillary and postcapillary venular endothelium during the second-half of the 48-hour life cycle. The resulting sequestration of infected erythrocytes (IRBC) in deep vascular beds leads to tissue hypoxia, metabolic disturbances, and organ dysfunction which characterize severe falciparum malaria. Several endothelial receptors of cytoadherence have been identified, but their clinical relevance remains controversial. In the present report, the receptor specificity of 60 clinical P falciparum isolates was determined using transfectants each expressing one of CD36, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), E-selectin, and vascular cell adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1). All isolates tested adhered to CD36 and ICAM-1, but the adherence to CD36 was at least 10-fold higher. Seven isolates adhered to E-selectin whereas none of 19 isolates adhered to VCAM-1. From a population standpoint, about 30% of IRBC in each isolate adhered to CD36, and 2% to 3% adhered to ICAM-1. The percentage adherent to E-selectin and VCAM-1 was negligible. IRBC selected on CD36 adhered almost exclusively to CD36 whereas 80% to 90% of IRBC selected on ICAM-1 could also adhere to CD36. Selected IRBC did not adhere to E-selectin or VCAM-1. These findings indicate that cytoadherence to multiple endothelial receptors is a rare occurrence with natural P falciparum isolates, but do not exclude a role for the adhesion molecules in promoting other IRBC-endothelial interactions such as rolling under flow conditions. Receptor specificity in vivo may be dictated by the ligand-receptor combination which provides the best survival potential for the parasite.


Journal article



Publication Date





2754 - 2760


Department of Microbiology and Infectious Diseases, University of Calgary, Alberta, Canada.


Endothelium, Vascular, Erythrocytes, L Cells (Cell Line), Animals, Humans, Mice, Plasmodium falciparum, Malaria, Falciparum, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1, E-Selectin, Vascular Cell Adhesion Molecule-1, Antigens, CD36, Receptors, Cell Surface, Recombinant Fusion Proteins, DNA, Complementary, Severity of Illness Index, Prospective Studies, Transfection, Cell Adhesion, Female, Male