Blackwell Publishing Journal Backfiles 1879-2005
The first gene characterizing the clag (cytoadherence linked asexual gene) family of Plasmodium falciparum was identified on chromosome 9. The protein product (Clag9) was implicated in cytoadhesion, the binding of infected erythrocytes to host endothelial cells, but little information on the biochemical characteristics of this protein is available. Other genes related to clag9 have been identified on different chromosomes. These genes encode similar amino acid sequences, but clag9 shows least conservation. Clag9 was detected in schizonts, merozoites and ring-stage parasites after protease digestion and peptide analysis by mass spectrometry. Using antisera raised against unique regions of Clag9 and against RhopH2, a component of the RhopH high-molecular-mass protein complex of merozoites, immunofluorescence co-localized the two proteins to the apical region of merozoites. Immunoelectron microscopy co-localized Clag9 and RhopH2 exclusively to the basal bulb region of rhoptries rather than to their apical ducts. The same Clag9-specific antibodies bound the RhopH complex, and the protein was detected in the complex purified by antibodies to RhopH2. Clag9 protein was also shown to be present in ring-stage parasites, carried through from the previous cycle with the RhopH complex, in a location identical to that of RhopH2. Transcription of the clag9 gene was shown to occur at the same time as the genes for other members of the RhopH complex, rhoph2 and 3. The results indicate that Clag9 is part of the RhopH complex and suggest that, within this complex, the protein previously designated RhopH1 is composed of more than one protein product of the clag gene family. The results cast doubt on a direct role for Clag9 in cytoadhesion; we suggest that the primary role of the RhopH complex is in remodelling the infected red blood cell after invasion by the merozoite. The complex may have multiple functions dependent on its exact composition, which may include, with respect to Clag9, a contribution to the mechanism of cytoadhesion.
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