Invasion of erythrocytes by malarial merozoites requires the formation of a junction between the merozoite and the erythrocyte. Migration of the junction parallel to the long axis of the merozoite occurs during the entry of the merozoite into an invagination of the erythrocyte. Freeze-fracture shows a narrow circumferential band of rhomboidally arrayed particles on the P face of the erythrocyte membrane at the neck of the erythrocyte invagination and matching rhomboidally arrayed pits on the E face. The band corresponds to the junction between the erythrocyte and merozoite membranes observed in thin sections and may represent the anchorage sites of the contractile proteins within the erythrocyte. Intramembrane particles (IMP) on the P face of the erythrocyte membrane disappear beyond this junction. When the erythrocytes and cytochalasin B-treated merozoites are incubated together, the merozoite attaches to the erythrocyte membrane and a junction is formed between the two, but the invasion process does not advance further and no movement of the junction occurs. Although there is no entry of the parasite, the erythrocyte membrane still invaginates. Freeze-fracture shows that the P face of the invaginated erythrocyte membrane is almost devoid of the IMP that are found elsewhere on the membrane, suggesting that the attachment process in and of itself is sufficient to create a relatively IMP-free bilayer.

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