A forward genetic screen identifies erythrocyte CD55 as essential for Plasmodium falciparum invasion

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Science  08 May 2015:
Vol. 348, Issue 6235, pp. 711-714
DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa3526

A way to dissect malaria's secrets

Malaria has exerted a strong selective force on the human genome. However, efforts to identify host susceptibility factors have been hindered by the absence of a nucleus in red blood cells. Egan et al. developed an approach involving blood stem cells to discover host factors critical for Plasmodium falciparum infection of red blood cells. The authors identified an essential host receptor for parasite invasion that could provide a target for malaria therapeutics.

Science, this issue p. 711


Efforts to identify host determinants for malaria have been hindered by the absence of a nucleus in erythrocytes, which precludes genetic manipulation in the cell in which the parasite replicates. We used cultured red blood cells derived from hematopoietic stem cells to carry out a forward genetic screen for Plasmodium falciparum host determinants. We found that CD55 is an essential host factor for P. falciparum invasion. CD55-null erythrocytes were refractory to invasion by all isolates of P. falciparum because parasites failed to attach properly to the erythrocyte surface. Thus, CD55 is an attractive target for the development of malaria therapeutics. Hematopoietic stem cell–based forward genetic screens may be valuable for the identification of additional host determinants of malaria pathogenesis.

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