Receptors on the cell surface are involved in specific responses to stimuli in the cell's environment. The interaction between the cell and the environmental signals influence a diverse range of events from developmental biology and the immune response to hormonal and neural regulation. It is not surprising, then, that viruses and protozoa that have evolved with their hosts utilize similar mechanisms for attachment and invasion of host cells. In this case the parasite would have a receptor for a determinant on the host cell. This receptor on the parasite, in turn, attaches to a receptor for the parasite on the host cell. Identification of the receptors on the host cell could facilitate isolation of the parasite receptor which might be used as an immunogen for inducing protective immunity.
In this paper we will review the evidence for receptors on erythrocytes for malaria merozoites and the nature of these receptors in three primate malarias, Plasmodium knowlesi, P. vivax, and P. falciparum.