Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites with different capabilities of invading sialic acid-deficient erythrocytes were identified. Thai-2 parasites cultured in Tn erythrocytes invaded neuraminidase-treated and Tn erythrocytes twice as efficiently as Thai-2 parasites cultured in normal erythrocytes and seven to ten times more efficiently than a cloned line of Camp parasites cultured in normal erythrocytes. All three parasite lines required sialic acid for optimal invasion, but Thai-2 parasites cultured in Tn erythrocytes invaded neuraminidase- treated erythrocytes with 45% efficiency whereas Camp parasites invaded neuraminidase-treated erythrocytes with less than 10% efficiency. P falciparum malaria parasites probably possess two receptors: one that binds to a sialic acid-dependent ligand and another that binds to a sialic acid-independent ligand. Parasites may differ in the quantity or affinity of their receptors for the sialic acid-independent ligand.

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