RH5-Basigin interaction plays a major role in the host tropism of Plasmodium falciparum. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

Madushi Wanaguru, Weimin Liu, Beatrice H Hahn, Julian C Rayner, Gavin J Wright

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Plasmodium falciparum, the cause of almost all human malaria mortality, is a member of the Laverania subgenus which infects African great apes. Interestingly, Laverania parasites exhibit strict host specificity in their natural environment: P. reichenowi, P. billcollinsi, and P. gaboni infect only chimpanzees; P. praefalciparum, P. blacklocki, and P. adleri are restricted to gorillas, and P. falciparum is pandemic in humans. The molecular mechanism(s) responsible for these host restrictions are not understood, although the interaction between the parasite blood-stage invasion ligand EBA175 and the host erythrocyte receptor Glycophorin-A (GYPA) has been implicated previously. We reexamined the role of the EBA175-GYPA interaction in host tropism using recombinant proteins and biophysical assays and found that EBA175 orthologs from the chimpanzee-restricted parasites P. reichenowi and P. billcollinsi both bound to human GYPA with affinities similar to that of P. falciparum, suggesting that the EBA175-GYPA interaction is unlikely to be the sole determinant of Laverania host specificity. We next investigated the contribution of the recently discovered Reticulocyte-binding protein Homolog 5 (RH5)-Basigin (BSG) interaction in host-species selectivity and found that P. falciparum RH5 bound chimpanzee BSG with a significantly lower affinity than human BSG and did not bind gorilla BSG, mirroring the known host tropism of P. falciparum. Using site-directed mutagenesis, we identified residues in BSG that are responsible for the species specificity of PfRH5 binding. Consistent with the essential role of the PfRH5-BSG interaction in erythrocyte invasion, we conclude that species-specific differences in the BSG receptor provide a molecular explanation for the restriction of P. falciparum to its human host.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)20735-20740
Number of pages6
JournalProc Natl Acad Sci USA
Issue number51
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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