To understand the molecular mechanisms that lead to sequestration of red blood cells infected with mature stages of Plasmodium falciparum and to examine the relevance of earlier studies on adherence properties of laboratory-derived P falciparum parasites to the natural parasite population, we analyzed Gambian and Tanzanian isolates for in vitro cytoadherence and antibody-mediated microagglutination. Eighteen cryopreserved isolates of ring-stage parasites were cultured for 20 to 30 hours in vitro, in the patients original erythrocytes, to the trophozoite and schizont stage. All parasites were positive in the microagglutination assay with at least one of four African hyperimmune sera. In a rosetting assay, only 2 of the 18 isolates were strongly positive (35% and 41% of parasitized erythrocytes with more than two uninfected cells bound). Thirteen isolates showed either intermediate (5% to 18%) or low (less than 5%) rosetting while three isolates did not form rosettes. Infected cell-binding of the different isolates to immobilized CD36 or thrombospondin, or C32 melanoma cells correlated with the percentage of mature parasites in the blood samples (r = .932 for CD36, r = .946 for thrombospondin, and r = .881 for C32 melanoma cells). There was a high correlation between binding to CD36 and thrombospondin (r = .982). The extent of infected cell rosetting with uninfected cells in these blood samples was not correlated with these other receptor properties. We also observed coexpression of rosetting and cytoadherence receptors on the same parasitized erythrocytes.

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