Minutes after injection into the circulation, malaria sporozoites enter hepatocytes. The speed and specificity of the invasion process suggest that it is receptor mediated. We show here that recombinant Plasmodium falciparum circumsporozoite protein (CS) binds specifically to regions of the plasma membrane of hepatocytes exposed to circulating blood in the Disse space. No binding has been detected in other organs, or even in other regions of the hepatocyte membrane. The interaction of CS with hepatocytes, as well as sporozoite invasion of HepG2 cells, is inhibited by synthetic peptides representing the evolutionarily conserved region II of CS. We conclude that region II is a sporozoite ligand for hepatocyte receptors localized to the basolateral domain of the plasma membrane. Our findings provide a rational explanation for the target cell specificity of malaria sporozoites.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology