We have investigated the expression of a strain-specific malarial antigen on the surface of erythrocytes infected with knobless (K-) variants of knob-positive (K+) strains of Plasmodium falciparum. Aotus blood infected with K+ or K- parasites derived from two independent geographical isolates (Malayan camp and Santa Lucia) was surface iodinated by the lactoperoxidase method. Infected and uninfected erythrocytes were then separated by a new procedure involving equilibrium density sedimentation on a Percoll gradient containing sorbitol. Strain-specific antigens were readily identified on the surface of erythrocytes infected with either of the K+ strains by their characteristic size and detergent solubility. These proteins were not detected on the surface of erythrocytes infected with either of the K- variants nor on uninfected erythrocytes isolated from K+- or K- -infected blood. These results are consistent with a role for the strain-specific surface antigen in cytoadherence of P. falciparum-infected erythrocytes. Our findings represent the second biochemical difference (with the knob-associated histidine-rich protein) between K+ and K- P. falciparum.

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