HS (heparan sulfate) has been shown to be an important mediator of Plasmodium sporozoite homing and invasion of the liver, but the role of this glycosaminoglycan in mosquito vector host–sporozoite interactions is unknown. We have biochemically characterized the function of AgOXT1 (Anopheles gambiae peptide-O-xylosyltransferase 1) and confirmed that AgOXT1 can modify peptides representing model HS and chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans in vitro. Moreover, we also demonstrated that the mosquito salivary gland basal lamina proteoglycans are modified by HS. We used RNA interference-mediated knockdown of HS biosynthesis in A. gambiae salivary glands to determine whether Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites that are released from mosquito midgut oocysts use salivary gland HS as a receptor for tissue invasion. Our results suggest that salivary gland basal lamina HS glycosaminoglycans only partially mediate midgut sporozoite invasion of this tissue, and that in the absence of HS, the presence of other surface co-receptors is sufficient to facilitate parasite entry
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