Genetic Evidence for Erythrocyte Receptor Glycophorin B Expression Levels Defining a Dominant Plasmodium falciparum Invasion Pathway into Human Erythrocytes.

29 Nov 2018

Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite that causes the deadliest form of malaria, has evolved multiple proteins known as invasion ligands that bind to specific erythrocyte receptors to facilitate invasion of human erythrocytes. The EBA-175/glycophorin A (GPA) and Rh5/basigin ligand-receptor interactions, referred to as invasion pathways, have been the subject of intense study. In this study, we focused on the less-characterized sialic acid-containing receptors glycophorin B (GPB) and glycophorin C (GPC). Through bioinformatic analysis, we identified extensive variation in glycophorin B (GYPB) transcript levels in individuals from Benin, suggesting selection from malaria pressure. To elucidate the importance of the GPB and GPC receptors relative to the well-described EBA-175/GPA invasion pathway, we used an ex vivo erythrocyte culture system to decrease expression of GPA, GPB, or GPC via lentiviral short hairpin RNA transduction of erythroid progenitor cells, with global surface proteomic profiling. We assessed the efficiency of parasite invasion into knockdown cells using a panel of wild-type P. falciparum laboratory strains and invasion ligand knockout lines, as well as P. falciparum Senegalese clinical isolates and a short-term-culture-adapted strain. For this, we optimized an invasion assay suitable for use with small numbers of erythrocytes. We found that all laboratory strains and the majority of field strains tested were dependent on GPB expression level for invasion. The collective data suggest that the GPA and GPB receptors are of greater importance than the GPC receptor, supporting a hierarchy of erythrocyte receptor usage in P. falciparum.