Disruption of Var2csa Gene Impairs Placental Malaria Associated Adhesion Phenotype

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Viebig, Nicola K. ; Levin, Emily ; Dechavanne, Sébastien ; Rogerson, Stephen J. ; Gysin, Jürg ; Smith, Joseph D. ; Scherf, Artur ; Gamain, Benoit (2007)
  • Publisher: Public Library of Science
  • Journal: PLoS ONE, volume 2, issue 9 (issn: 1932-6203, eissn: 1932-6203)
  • Related identifiers: doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0000910, pmc: PMC1975670
  • Subject: Q | R | Research Article | Infectious Diseases/Protozoal Infections | Infectious Diseases/Tropical and Travel-Associated Diseases | Science | Microbiology/Parasitology | Medicine | Microbiology/Cellular Microbiology and Pathogenesis
    mesheuropmc: embryonic structures | parasitic diseases

Infection with Plasmodium falciparum during pregnancy is one of the major causes of malaria related morbidity and mortality in newborn and mothers. The complications of pregnancy-associated malaria result mainly from massive adhesion of Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes (IE) to chondroitin sulfate A (CSA) present in the placental intervillous blood spaces. Var2CSA, a member of the P. falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) family is the predominant parasite ligand mediating CSA binding. However, experimental evidence suggests that other host receptors, such as hyaluronic acid (HA) and the neonatal Fc receptor, may also support placental binding. Here we used parasites in which var2csa was genetically disrupted to evaluate the contribution of these receptors to placental sequestration and to identify additional adhesion receptors that may be involved in pregnancy-associated malaria. By comparison to the wild-type parasites, the FCR3delta var2csa mutants could not be selected for HA adhesion, indicating that var2csa is not only essential for IE cytoadhesion to the placental receptor CSA, but also to HA. However, further studies using different pure sources of HA revealed that the previously observed binding results from CSA contamination in the bovine vitreous humor HA preparation. To identify CSA-independent placental interactions, FCR3delta var2csa mutant parasites were selected for adhesion to the human placental trophoblastic BeWo cell line. BeWo selected parasites revealed a multi-phenotypic adhesion population expressing multiple var genes. However, these parasites did not cytoadhere specifically to the syncytiotrophoblast lining of placental cryosections and were not recognized by sera from malaria-exposed women in a parity dependent manner, indicating that the surface molecules present on the surface of the BeWo selected population are not specifically expressed during the course of pregnancy-associated malaria. Taken together, these results demonstrate that the placental malaria associated phenotype can not be restored in FCR3delta var2csa mutant parasites and highlight the key role of var2CSA in pregnancy malaria pathogenesis and for vaccine development.
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