Adherence of infected erythrocytes to venular endothelium selects for antigenic variants of Plasmodium falciparum Academic Article uri icon


  • Erythrocytes (E) infected with asexual forms of malaria parasites exhibit surface antigenic variation. In Plasmodium falciparum infections, the variant Ag is the P. falciparum E membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1). This molecule may also mediate the adherence of infected E to host venular endothelium. We show here that parasite lines selected for increased adherence to endothelial cells have undergone antigenic variation. Three adherent lines selected from the same P. falciparum clone reacted with the same agglutinating antiserum that failed to agglutinate the parental clone. Immunoprecipitation experiments with the agglutinating anti-serum demonstrated that the selected lines expressed cross-reactive forms of PfEMP1 that were of higher m.w. and antigenically distinct from PfEMP1 of the parental clone. When one of the adherent lines was cloned in the absence of selection, a range of variant antigenic types emerged with differing cytoadherence phenotypes. These findings show that selection for cytoadherence in vitro favors the emergence of antigenic variants of P. falciparum and suggest that the requirement for cytoadherence in vivo may restrict the range of antigenic variants of P. falciparum in natural infections.


  • Biggs, BA
  • Anders, RF
  • Dillon, HE
  • Davern, KM
  • Martin, M
  • Petersen, C
  • Brown, GV

publication date

  • September 23, 1992