Angeletti D, Sandalova T, Wahlgren M, Achour A
PLoS ONE 10 (3) e0118898 [2015-03-05; online 2015-03-05]
The capacity of Plasmodium falciparum parasitized erythrocytes (pRBC) to adhere to the endothelial lining in the microvasculature and to red blood cells (RBC) is associated with the virulence of the parasite, the pathogenesis and development of severe malaria. Rosetting, the binding of uninfected RBC to pRBC, is frequently observed in individuals with severe malaria and is mediated by the N-terminal NTS-DBL1α domain of the adhesin Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) expressed at the surface of the pRBC. Heparan sulfate has been suggested to be an important receptor for the NTS-DBL1α variant IT4(var60) expressed by the parasite FCR3S1.2. Here, we have determined the binding site of NTS-DBL1α (IT4(var60)) to the RBC and heparin using a set of recombinant, mutated proteins expressed in and purified from E. coli. All the variants were studied for their ability to bind to RBC, their capacities to disrupt FCR3S1.2 rosettes, their affinities for heparin and their binding to rosette-disruptive mAbs. Our results suggest that NTS-DBL1α mediates binding to RBC through a limited number of basic amino acid residues localized on the surface of subdomains 1 (SD1) and 2 (SD2). The SD2-binding site is localized in close proximity to one of two previously identified binding sites in the rosetting PfEMP1 of the parasite PaloAlto-varO. The binding site in SD2 of NTS-DBL1α could represent a template for the development of anti-rosetting drugs.