Reversal of knob formation on Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes

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Science  05 Oct 1984:
Vol. 226, Issue 4670, pp. 65-67
DOI: 10.1126/science.6382613


The human malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum can produce surface protrusions (knobs) on infected erythrocytes; however, long-term culturing of the parasite results in the appearance of knobless cells. In this study it was found that a knob-producing clone lost the ability to produce knobs in vitro. Furthermore, a clone not producing knobs derived from the knob-producing clone regained the capacity to produce knobby cells in vitro. Certain parasite proteins were associated with the knobby phenotype but not with the knobless type. These results indicate that the parasites change in vitro in a spontaneous and reversible manner independent of immunological selection.