Lactic dehydrogenase activity increased in direct proportion to the degree of parasitization in synchronous infections of duck erythrocytes. Deviations from this linearity could be accounted for on the basis of the developmental stage of the parasite. Erythrocyte-free P. lophurae showed activities which averaged 3 times that of uninfected erythrocytes, whereas infected erythrocytes had intermediate values. In addition, a patent infection was generally reflected by an increase in the lactic dehydrogenase activity in the plasma, but no direct correlation with parasitemia was established.
Molecular heterogeneity of the enzyme was determined on the basis of kinetic data and electrophoretic isolation on a starch block. The uninfected red blood cell showed a major anodal and a minor cathodal peak of lactic dehydrogenase activity, and was further characterized by a kinetic constant representing a high pH optimum with low concentrations of substrate. Isolated P. lophurae had a single, cathodal peak of activity dissimilar from that of the uninfected erythrocyte, and a kinetic constant describing a low pH optimum with a high concentration of substrate. Infected erythrocytes showed a combination of these electrophoretic entities and an intermediate range of kinetic constants.
The data indicate that the avian malaria parasite P. lophurae contains a lactic dehydrogenase qualitatively dissimilar from that of its host cell, and the increased enzymatic activity of infected erythrocytes is a result of the enzyme content of the growing parasite added to that of the red blood cell. It is suggested that the LDH of the parasite has a physiological advantage under those conditions which prevail inside the red blood cell.