Genetic disruption of Plasmodium falciparum Merozoite surface antigen 180 (PfMSA180) suggests an essential role during parasite egress from erythrocytes

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Plasmodium falciparum, the parasite responsible for severe malaria, develops within erythrocytes. Merozoite invasion and subsequent egress of intraerythrocytic parasites are essential for this erythrocytic cycle, parasite survival and pathogenesis. In the present study, we report the essential role of a novel protein, P. falciparum Merozoite Surface Antigen 180 (PfMSA180), which is conserved across Plasmodium species and recently shown to be associated with the P. vivax merozoite surface. Here, we studied MSA180 expression, processing, localization and function in P. falciparum blood stages. Initially we examined its role in invasion, a process mediated by multiple ligand-receptor interactions and an attractive step for targeting with inhibitory antibodies through the development of a malaria vaccine. Using antibodies specific for different regions of PfMSA180, together with a parasite containing a conditional pfmsa180-gene knockout generated using CRISPR/Cas9 and DiCre recombinase technology, we demonstrate that this protein is unlikely to play a crucial role in erythrocyte invasion. However, deletion of the pfmsa180 gene resulted in a severe egress defect, preventing schizont rupture and blocking the erythrocytic cycle. Our study highlights an essential role of PfMSA180 in parasite egress, which could be targeted through the development of a novel malaria intervention strategy.

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Volume 11
Issue number 1
Pages 19183
Available online
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