Laboratoire d'Immunologie Parasitaire, Institut Pasteur, Unite de Parasitologie Experimentale, Institut Pasteur, Department of Immunology, University of Stockholm, Unite de Parasitologie Experimentale, Institut Pasteur, Cayenne, Guyane Francaise, France
Experimental cerebral malaria was recently found to occur in the squirrel monkey Saimiri sciureus when infected with the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. This report is concerned with the existence of spontaneous rosette formation ex vivo (infected blood samples) and in vitro (cultured parasites) between red blood cells (RBC) infected with squirrel monkey-adapted P. falciparum isolates and normal squirrel monkey RBC. Transfer of P. falciparum with high rosette formation tendencies (90–100 R+) from one donor monkey to several recipients gave rise to parasites that varied extensively in their ex vivo rosette formation capacity (4–96% R+). However, all individual parasites readily form rosettes after 24 hr of in vitro culture (60–95% R+). Host factors may be involved in the modulation of rosette formation, although it is found to occur both in splenectomized and spleen-intact animals. Cross-rosette formation is seen between parasitized human RBC and normal squirrel monkey RBC and vice versa, and rosettes formed by RBC of the two hosts are similarly affected by pH, temperature, EDTA, trypsin, as well as squirrel monkey and African human hyperimmune IgG. These characteristics of rosette formation are preserved after long-term in vitro culture in human RBC. Rosettes formed by some isolates are highly sensitive to heparin while others are not, suggesting at least two distinct mechanisms of rosette formation. This idea is also supported by the observation that specific squirrel monkey antisera to heparin-sensitive strains does not dissociate rosettes formed by a heparin-resistant strain. The results suggest that rosettes and anti-rosette formation antibodies formed by squirrel monkeys and humans exhibited similar characteristics, and that the squirrel monkey is therefore a good experimental model to study erythrocyte rosette formation and cerebral malaria.