Erythrocytes lacking the Langereis blood group protein ABCB6 are resistant to the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum.

25 Jun 2018

The ATP-binding cassette transporter ABCB6 was recently discovered to encode the Langereis (Lan) blood group antigen. Lan null individuals are asymptomatic, and the function of ABCB6 in mature erythrocytes is not understood. Here, we assessed ABCB6 as a host factor for Plasmodium falciparum malaria parasites during erythrocyte invasion. We show that Lan null erythrocytes are highly resistant to invasion by P. falciparum, in a strain-transcendent manner. Although both Lan null and Jr(a-) erythrocytes harbor excess porphyrin, only Lan null erythrocytes exhibit a P. falciparum invasion defect. Further, the zoonotic parasite P. knowlesi invades Lan null and control cells with similar efficiency, suggesting that ABCB6 may mediate P. falciparum invasion through species-specific molecular interactions. Using tandem mass tag-based proteomics, we find that the only consistent difference in membrane proteins between Lan null and control cells is absence of ABCB6. Our results demonstrate that a newly identified naturally occurring blood group variant is associated with resistance to Plasmodium falciparum.