Invasion of erythrocytes by malaria parasites is mediated by specific molecular interactions. Whereas Plasmodium vivax and Plasmodium knowlesi use the Duffy blood group antigen, Plasmodium falciparum uses sialic acid residues of glycophorin A as receptors to invade human erythrocytes. P. knowlesi uses the Duffy antigen as well as other receptors to invade rhesus erythrocytes by multiple pathways. Parasite ligands that bind these receptors belong to a family of erythrocyte-binding proteins (EBP). The EBP family includes the P. vivax and P. knowlesi Duffy-binding proteins, P. knowlesi β and γ proteins, which bind alternate receptors on rhesus erythrocytes, and P. falciparum erythrocyte-binding antigen (EBA-175), which binds sialic acid residues of human glycophorin A. Binding domains of each EBP lie in a conserved N-terminal cysteine-rich region, region II, which contains around 330 amino acids with 12 to 14 conserved cysteines. Regions containing binding residues have now been mapped within P. vivax and P. knowlesi β region II. Chimeric domains containing P. vivax region II sequences fused to P. knowlesi β region II sequences were expressed on the surface of COS cells and tested for binding to erythrocytes. Binding residues of P. vivax region II lie in a 170-aa stretch between cysteines 4 and 7, and binding residues of P. knowlesi β region II lie in a 53-aa stretch between cysteines 4 and 5. Mapping regions responsible for receptor recognition is an important step toward understanding the structural basis for the interaction of these parasite ligands with host receptors
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