PfEMP1: An antigen that plays a key role in the pathogenicity and immune evasion of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

Noa D. Pasternak, Ron Dzikowski*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalShort surveypeer-review

102 Scopus citations

Abstract

The deadliest form of human malaria is caused by the protozoan parasite Plasmodium falciparum affecting millions worldwide every year. P. falciparum virulence is attributed to its ability to evade the human immune system by modifying infected host red blood cells to adhere to the vascular endothelium and to undergo antigenic variation. The main antigenic ligands responsible for both cytoadherence and antigenic variation are members of the P. falciparum Erythrocyte Membrane Protein-1 (PfEMP1) family. These polymorphic proteins are encoded by a multi-copy gene family called var. Each individual parasite expresses a single var gene at a time, maintaining the remaining ∼60 var genes found in its genome in a transcriptionally silent state. As the antibody response against the single expressed PfEMP1 develops, small sub-populations of parasites switch expression to alternative forms of PfEMP1 and re-establish the infection. Therefore, PfEMP1 is considered a key player in the pathogenicity of P. falciparum.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)1463-1466
Number of pages4
JournalInternational Journal of Biochemistry and Cell Biology
Volume41
Issue number7
DOIs
StatePublished - Jul 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to thank Dr. Kirk Deitsch for critical reading of the manuscript. We also thank Mr. Ira Pasternak for his graphic assistance. RD is supported by the Marie Curie International Reintegration Grant (IRG) [203675], the German Israeli Foundation [2163-1725.11/2006] and the United States – Israel Binational Science Foundation [2007350].

Keywords

  • Antigenic variation
  • Malaria
  • PfEMP1
  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • Virulence

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