Circumsporozoite (CS) proteins, which densely coat malaria (Plasmodia) sporozoites, contain an amino acid sequence that is homologous to segments in other proteins which bind specifically to sulfated glycoconjugates. The presence of this homology suggests that sporozoites and CS proteins may also bind sulfated glycoconjugates. To test this hypothesis, recombinant P. yoelii CS protein was examined for binding to sulfated glycoconjugate-Sepharoses. CS protein bound avidly to heparin-, fucoidan-, and dextran sulfate-Sepharose, but bound comparatively poorly to chondroitin sulfate A- or C-Sepharose. CS protein also bound with significantly lower affinity to a heparan sulfate biosynthesis-deficient mutant cell line compared with the wild-type line, consistent with the possibility that the protein also binds to sulfated glycoconjugates on the surfaces of cells. This possibility is consistent with the observation that CS protein binding to hepatocytes, cells invaded by sporozoites during the primary stage of malaria infection, was inhibited by fucoidan, pentosan polysulfate, and heparin. The effects of sulfated glycoconjugates on sporozoite infectivity were also determined. P. berghei sporozoites bound specifically to sulfatide (galactosyl[3-sulfate]beta 1-1ceramide), but not to comparable levels of cholesterol-3-sulfate, or several examples of neutral glycosphingolipids, gangliosides, or phospholipids. Sporozoite invasion into hepatocytes was inhibited by fucoidan, heparin, and dextran sulfate, paralleling the observed binding of CS protein to the corresponding Sepharose derivatives. These sulfated glycoconjugates blocked invasion by inhibiting an event occurring within 3 h of combining sporozoites and hepatocytes. Sporozoite infectivity in mice was significantly inhibited by dextran sulfate 500,000 and fucoidan. Taken together, these data indicate that CS proteins bind selectively to certain sulfated glycoconjugates, that sporozoite infectivity can be inhibited by such compounds, and that invasion of host hepatocytes by sporozoites may involve interactions with these types of compounds.

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