Structure and development of the surface coat of erythrocytic merozoites of Plasmodium knowlesi

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The surface of extracellular merozoites of P. knowlesi is covered with a coat 15–20 nm thick, made up of clusters of filaments standing erect on the plasma membrane. Filaments have stems 2 nm thick, the peripheral ends of which are complex, branching or ending in long trailing threads. Coat filaments occur on the surface of the parasite in regular rows at an early schizont stage, and persist until well after merozoite release. They are sensitive to trypsin and papain, and bind ethanolic phosphotungstate, indicating a proteinaceous nature. They are also removed by exposure to phosphate-buffered saline. Filaments bear negative charges, binding cationised ferritin throughout the depth of the coat and staining with ruthenium red. They cover the whole merozoite surface and mediate intercellular adhesion at distances of 15–150 nm, membrane to membrane. It is suggested that these filaments correspond to a major merozoite surface protein, and are important in the initial capture of red cells.

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Correspondence to Dr. L. H. Bannister.

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Bannister, L.H., Mitchell, G.H., Butcher, G.A. et al. Structure and development of the surface coat of erythrocytic merozoites of Plasmodium knowlesi . Cell Tissue Res. 245, 281–290 (1986).

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Key words

  • Electron microscopy
  • Malaria parasites
  • Merozoites
  • Surface coat
  • Maturation
  • Plasmodium knowlesi