Neutrophils impose strong immune pressure against PfEMP1 variants implicated in cerebral malaria

Tamir Zelter, Jacob Strahilevitz, Karina Simantov, Olga Yajuk, Yvonne Adams, Anja Ramstedt Jensen, Ron Dzikowski*, Zvi Granot*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Plasmodium falciparum, the deadliest form of human malaria, remains one of the major threats to human health in endemic regions. Its virulence is attributed to its ability to modify infected red blood cells (iRBC) to adhere to endothelial receptors by placing variable antigens known as PfEMP1 on the iRBC surface. PfEMP1 expression determines the cytoadhesive properties of the iRBCs and is implicated in severe malaria. To evade antibody-mediated responses, the parasite undergoes continuous switches of expression between different PfEMP1 variants. Recently, it became clear that in addition to antibody-mediated responses, PfEMP1 triggers innate immune responses; however, the role of neutrophils, the most abundant white blood cells in the human circulation, in malaria remains elusive. Here, we show that neutrophils recognize and kill blood-stage P. falciparum isolates. We identify neutrophil ICAM-1 and specific PfEMP1 implicated in cerebral malaria as the key molecules involved in this killing. Our data provide mechanistic insight into the interactions between neutrophils and iRBCs and demonstrate the important influence of PfEMP1 on the selective innate response to cerebral malaria.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere53641
JournalEMBO Reports
Issue number6
StatePublished - 7 Jun 2022

Bibliographical note

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© 2022 The Authors. Published under the terms of the CC BY NC ND 4.0 license.


  • ICAM1
  • PfEMP1
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • cerebral malaria
  • neutrophils


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