Erythrocytes infected with mature stages of malaria adhere to vascular endothelial cells in postcapillary venules of several organs. In some patients, infected cells also form rosettes with uninfected erythrocytes. The special pathology of acute cerebral malaria appears to result from excessive adherence of infected cells in cerebral vessels coupled with occlusion of cerebral blood flow in microvessels by infected cell rosettes. Several endothelial cell proteins have been identified as potential receptors for infected erythrocyte adherence to vascular endothelium, including thrombospondin, CD36, intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), vascular adhesion molecule-1 (VCAM-1), and endothelial leukocyte adhesion molecule-1 (ELAM-1). The receptor on infected erythrocytes that mediates adhesion to endothelial cells has been identified as a very large malarial protein on infected cells called PfEMP1. PfEMP1 has been shown to bind to CD36 and thrombospondin in vitro. Antibody-mediated blockade or reversal of infected erythrocyte adherence to vascular endothelium is postulated not only to decrease the pathology of blood-stage malaria, but also to lead to infected cell destruction and clearance, especially in the spleen. PfEMP1 is therefore a prime candidate malarial protein for inclusion in a multicomponent asexual malaria vaccine.


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  • Article Type: Review Article
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