Neveu G, Dupuy F, Ladli M, Barbieri D, Naissant B, Richard C, Martins RM, Lopez-Rubio JJ, Bachmann A, Verdier F, Lavazec C
Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes, the sexual stages responsible for malaria parasite transmission, develop in the human bone marrow parenchyma in proximity to the erythroblastic islands. Yet, mechanisms underlying gametocytes interactions with these islands are unknown. Here, we have investigated whether gametocyte-infected erythrocytes (GIE) adhere to erythroid precursors, and whether a putative adhesion may be mediated by a mechanism similar to the adhesion of erythrocytes infected with P. falciparum asexual stages to uninfected erythrocytes. Cell-cell adhesion assays with human primary erythroblasts or erythroid cell lines revealed that immature GIE do not specifically adhere to erythroid precursors. To determine whether adhesion may be dependent on binding of STEVOR proteins to Glycophorin C on the surface of erythroid cells, we used clonal lines and transgenic parasites that overexpress specific STEVOR proteins known to bind to Glycophorin C in asexual stages. Our results indicate that GIE overexpressing STEVOR do not specifically adhere to erythroblasts, in agreement with our observation that the STEVOR adhesive domain is not exposed at the surface of GIE.