Ultrastructural Aspects of Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocyte Adherence to Endothelial Cells of Saimiri Brain Microvasculature

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  • Unite de Parasitologie Experimentale, Institut Pasteur de Lyon, Unite de Physiopathologie Cellulaire et Moleculaire des Fibroses Tissulaires, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Unite de Recherche Associee 1459, Institut Pasteur de Lyon, Lentilly, France

We have recently shown that some squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) develop cerebral malaria when experimentally infected with asexual blood stage forms of different Plasmodium falciparum isolates. Since cerebral malaria is neither an inconsistent nor predictable event, several clones of endothelial cells isolated from the squirrel monkey brain microvasculature have been developed. Infected red blood cell (IRBC) adherence involved the knobs and direct membrane interactions through pseudopodes and microvilli on the Saimiri brain endothelial cell (SBEC) surface, similar to that observed with both brain microvascular endothelial cells from a patient who died of cerebral malaria and the rhesus monkey/P. coatneyi cerebral malaria model. The involvement of pseudopodes and microvilli increase the endothelial cell surface for the attachment of IRBCs; however, they are already present before the SBECs are exposed to IRBCs. With some SBEC phenotypes, embedding of IRBCs into the cytoplasma membrane of the endothelial cell was observed, resulting in an extremely close apposition of both SBEC and IRBC membranes during the adherence process. Once IRBCs are adherent, particularly for the embedding type, heterocellular communication-like structures between the cells become apparent. The upregulation of CD36 and intercellular adhesion molecule-1 by soluble recombinant (sr)-tumor necrosis factor-α or sr-interferon-γ did not modify the IRBC interactions with SBECs at the ultrastructural level. The study shows further that the observed differences of IRBC adherence are due to unidentified phenotypic differences of SBECs rather than to a parasite isolate or particular endothelial cell receptor-associated phenomenon. Exploring P. falciparum IRBC cytoadherence in the squirrel monkey using a homologous physiologic target cell model in vitro should be useful for the evaluation of vaccine strategies and drugs to prevent human cerebral malaria.

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