Infections with the human malaria Plasmodium falciparum are characterized by the retention of parasitized erythrocytes in tissue capillaries and venules. Erythrocytes containing trophozoites and schizonts attach to the endothelial cells that line these vessels by means of structurally identifiable excrescences present on the surface of the infected cell. Such excrescences, commonly called knobs, are visible by means of scanning or transmission electron microscopy. The biochemical mechanisms responsible for erythrocyte adherence to the endothelial cell are still undefined. In an attempt to identify the cytoadhesive molecule on the surface of the infected cell, we have prepared monoclonal antibodies to knob-bearing erythrocytes infected with the FCR-3 strain of P. falciparum. One of these monoclonal antibodies, designed 4A3, is an IgM that reacts (by means of immunofluorescence) with the surface of unfixed erythrocytes bearing mature parasites of the knobby line; it does not react with knobless lines or uninfected erythrocytes. By immunoelectron microscopy the monoclonal antibody 4A3 was localized to the knob region. In an in vitro cytoadherence assay, the monoclonal antibody partially blocked the binding of knob-bearing cells (FCR-3 strain) to formalin-fixed amelanotic melanoma cells. The monoclonal antibody was used to immunoprecipitate a protein from extracts of knobby erythrocytes that had been previously surface iodinated. By a two-dimensional peptide mapping technique, the antigen recognized by the monoclonal antibody was found to be structurally related to band 3 protein, the human erythrocyte anion transporter.

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