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22  structures 16  species 0  interactions 1470  sequences 184  architectures

Family: PFEMP (PF03011)

Summary: PFEMP1 DBL domain

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This is the Wikipedia entry entitled "Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1". More...

Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 Edit Wikipedia article

PfEMP1, N-terminal segment
PfEMP DBL domain
PfEMP1, acidic terminal segment

Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) is a family of proteins present on the membrane surface of red blood cells (RBCs or erythrocytes) that are infected by the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum. PfEMP1 is synthesized during the parasite's blood stage (erythrocytic schizogony) inside the RBC, during which the clinical symptoms of falciparum malaria are manifested. Acting as both an antigen and adhesion protein, it is thought to play a key role in the high level of virulence associated with P. falciparum. It was discovered in 1984 when it was reported that infected RBCs had unusually large-sized cell membrane proteins, and these proteins had antibody-binding (antigenic) properties. An elusive protein, its chemical structure and molecular properties were revealed only after a decade, in 1995. It is now established that there is not one but a large family of PfEMP1 proteins, genetically regulated (encoded) by a group of about 60 genes called var. Each P. falciparum is able to switch on and off specific var genes to produce a functionally different protein, thereby evading the host's immune system. RBCs carrying PfEMP1 on their surface stick to endothelial cells, which facilitates further binding with uninfected RBCs (through the processes of sequestration and rosetting), ultimately helping the parasite to both spread to other RBCs as well as bringing about the fatal symptoms of P. falciparum malaria.


Images of RBCs infected by P. falciparum using atomic force microscopy. (A) An early schizont with cluster of knobs at the center. Scale bar = 1 µm. Inset is the same image under light microscope. (B) A young trophozoite with knobs. Scale bar = 1 µm. (C) A close up of the cell membrane showing individual knobs. Scale bar = 200 nm. (D) A close up of a single knob. Scale bar = 75 nm.[1]

Malaria is the deadliest among infectious diseases, accounting for approximately 429,000 human deaths in 2015 as of the latest estimate by the World Health Organization.[2] In humans, malaria can be caused by five Plasmodium parasites, namely P. falciparum, P. vivax, P. malariae, P. ovale and P. knowlesi.[3] P. falciparum is the most dangerous species, attributed to >99% of malaria's death toll, with 70% of these deaths occurring in children under the age of five years.[2] The parasites are transmitted through the bites of female mosquitos (of the species of Anopheles). Before invading the RBCs and causing the symptoms of malaria, the parasites first multiply in the liver. The daughter parasites called merozoites then only infect the RBCs. They undergo structural development inside the RBCs, becoming trophozoites and schizonts. It is during this period that malarial symptoms are produced.[4]

Unlike RBCs infected by other Plasmodium species, P. falciparum-infected RBCs had been known to spontaneously stick together. By the early 1980s, it was established that when the parasite (both the trophozoite and schizont forms) enters the blood stream and infects RBCs, the infected cells form knobs on their surface. Then they become sticky, and get attached to the walls (endothelium) of the blood vessels through a process called cytoadhesion, or cytoadherence.[5] Such attachment favours binding with and accumulation of other RBCs. This process is known as sequestration.[6] It is during this condition that the parasites induce an immune response (antigen-antibody reaction) and evade destruction in the spleen.[7][8] Although the process and significance of sequestration were described in detail by two Italian physicians Amico Bignami and Ettore Marchiafava in the early 1890s, it took a century to discover the actual factor for the stickiness and virulence.[9][10]


PfEMP1 was discovered by Russell J. Howard and his colleagues at the US National Institutes of Health in 1984. Using the techniques of radioiodination and immunoprecipitation, they found a unique but yet unknown antigen from P. falciparum-infected RBCs that appeared to cause binding with other cells.[11] Since the antigenic protein could only be detected in infected cells, they asserted that the protein was produced by the malarial parasite, and not by RBCs. The antigen was large and appeared to be different in size in different strains of P. falciparum obtained from night monkey (Aotus). In one strain, called Camp (from Malaysia), the antigen was found to have a molecular size of approximately 285 kDa; while in the other, called St. Lucia (from El Salvador), it was approximately 260 kDa. Both antigens bind to cultured skin cancer (melanoma) cells. But the researchers failed to confirm whether or not the protein actually was an adhesion molecule to the wall of blood vessels.[12] Later in the same year, they found out that the unknown antigen was associated only with RBCs having small lumps called knobs on their surface.[13] The first human RBC antigen was reported in 1986. Howard's team found that the antigens from Gambian children, who were suffering from falciparum malaria, were similar to those from the RBCs of night monkey. They determined that the molecular sizes of the proteins ranged from 250 to 300 kDa.[14]

In 1987, they discovered another type of surface antigen from the same Camp and St. Lucia strains of malarial parasites. This was also a large-sized protein of about 300 kDa, but quite different from the antigens reported in 1984. The new protein was unable to bind to melanoma cells and present only inside the cell. Hence, they named the earlier protein Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1), to distinguish it from the newly identified Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 2 (PfEMP2).[15] The distinction was confirmed the next year, with an additional information that PfEMP1 is relatively less in number.[16]

Although some of the properties of PfEMP1 were firmly established, the protein was difficult to isolate due to its low occurrence. Five years after its discovery, one of the original researchers Irwin Sherman began to doubt the existence of PfEMP1 as a unique protein.[10] He argued that the antigen could be merely a surface protein of RBCs that changes upon infection with malarial parasites.[17] A consensus was achieved in 1995 following the identification (by cloning) of the gene for PfEMP1. The discovery of the genes was independently reported by Howard's team and two other teams at NIH. Howard's team identified two genes for PfEMP1, and recombinant protein products of these genes were shown to have antigenic and adhesive properties. They further affirmed that PfEMP1 is the key molecule in the ability of P. falciparum to evade the host's immune system.[18] Joseph D. Smith and others showed that PfEMP1 is actually a large family of proteins encoded by a multigene family called var. The gene products can bind to a variety of receptors including those on endothelial cells.[19] Xin-Zhuan Su and others showed that there could be more than 50 var genes which are distributed on different chromosomes of the malarial parasite.[20]


Typical structure of PfEMP1. NTS = N terminal segment. TMD = transmembrane domain. ATS = intracellular acidic terminal segment.

PfEMP1 is a large family of proteins having high molecular weights ranging from 200 to 350 kDa.[21] The wide range of molecular size reflects extreme variation in the amino acid composition of the proteins. But all the PfEMP1 proteins can be described as having three basic structural components, namely, an extracellular domain (ECD), a transmembrane domain (TMD) and an intracellular acidic terminal segment (ATS). The extracellular domain is fully exposed on the cell surface, and is the most variable region. It consists of a number of sub-domains, including a short and conserved N terminal segment (NTS) at the outermost region, followed by a highly variable Duffy-binding-like (DBL) domain, sometimes a Ca2+-binding C2 domain, and then one or two cysteine-rich interdomain regions (CIDRs).[9][22]

Duffy-binding-like domains are so named because of their similarity to the Duffy binding proteins of P. vivax and P. knowlesi.[23] There are six variant types of DBL, named DBLα, DBLβ, DBLγ, DBLδ, DBLε and DBLζ. CIDR is also divided into three classes: CIDRα, CIDRβ and CIDRγ.[24] Both DBL and CIDR have an additional type called PAM, so named because of their specific involvement in pregnancy-associated malaria (PAM).[25] In spite of the diverse DBL and CIDR proteins, the extracellular amino terminal region is partly conserved, consisting of about 60 amino acids of NTS, one each of DBLα and CIDR1 proteins in tandem. This semi-conserved DBLα-CIDR1 region is called the head structure.[26] The last CIDR region joins the TMD, which is embedded in the cell membrane. The TMD and ATS are highly conserved among different PfEMP1s,[27] and their structures have been solved using solution NMR (PDB: 2LKL​).[28]

The head structure is followed by a variable combination of diverse DBL and CIDR proteins, and in many cases along with C2. This variation gives rise to different types of PfEMP1. The DBL-CIDR combination in a particular type of PfEMP1 protein is never random, but organized into specific sequences known as domain cassettes.[29] In some domain cassettes, there are only two or few DBL domains and CIDR domains, but in others they cover the entire length of the PfEMP1. These differences are responsible for different binding capacity among different PfEMP1s.[30] For instance, among the most well-known types, VAR3 (earlier called type 3 PfEMP1) is the smallest, consisting of only NTS with DBL1α and DBL2ε domains in the ECD. Its molecular size is approximately 150 kDa.[31] In domain cassette (DC) 4 type, the ECD is made up of three domains DBLα1.1/1.4, CIDRα1.6 and DBLβ3. The DBLβ3 domain contains a binding site for intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM1). This is particularly implicated with the development of brain infection.[32] VAR2CSA is atypical in having a single domain cassette that consists of three N terminal DBLPAM domains followed by three DBLε domains and one CIDRPAM. The seven domains always occur together. The usual NTS is absent.[33][34] The protein specifically binds to chondroitin sulphate A (CSA); hence the name VAR2CSA.[35]

Synthesis and transport

Model of a knob structure of P. falciparum-infected RBC showing attachment of PfEMP1.[36]

The PfEMP1 proteins are regulated and produced (encoded) by about 60 different var genes,[37] but an individual P. falciparum would switch on only a single var gene at a time to produce only one type of PfEMP.[38][39] The var genes are distributed in two exons. Exon 1 encodes amino acids of the highly variable ECD,[40] while exon 2 encodes those of the conserved TMD and ATS.[41] Based on their location in the chromosome and sequence, the var genes are generally classified into three major groups, A, B, and C, and two intermediate groups, B/A and B/C;[9][42] or sometimes simply into five classes, upsA, upsB, upsC, upsD, and upsE respectively.[43] Groups A and B are found towards the terminal end (subtelomeric) region of the chromosome, while group C is in the central (centromeric) region.[44][45]

Once the PfEMP1 protein is fully synthesized (translated), it is carried to the cytoplasm towards the RBC membrane. The NTS is crucial for such directional movement.[26] Within the cytoplasm, the newly synthesized protein is attached to a Golgi-like membranous vesicle called the Maurer's cleft.[46] Inside the Maurer’s clefts is a family of proteins called Plasmodium helical interspersed subtelomeric (PHIST) proteins. Of the PHIST proteins, PFI1780w and PFE1605w bind the intracellular ATS of PfEMP1 during transport to the RBC membrane.[28][47]

The PfEMP1 molecule is deposited at the RBC membrane at the knobs.[48] These knobs are easily identified as conspicuous bumps on the infected RBCs from the early trophozoite stage onward.[49] The malarial parasite cannot induce its virulence on RBCs without knobs.[50] As many as 10,000 knobs are distributed throughout the surface of a mature infected RBC, and each knob is 50-80 nm in diameter.[1] The export of pfEMP1 from Maurer's cleft to RBC membrane is mediated by binding of another protein produced by the parasite called knob-associated histidine-rich protein (KAHRP). KAHRP enhances the structural rigidity of infected RBC and adhesion of PfEMP1 on the knobs.[51] It is also directly responsible for forming knobs, as indicated by the fact that kahrp gene-deficient malarial parasites do not form knobs.[52] To form a knob, KAHRP aggregates several membrane skeletal proteins of the host RBC, such as spectrin, actin, ankyrin R, and spectrin–actin band 4.1 complex.[53] Upon arrival at the knob, PfEMP1 is attached to the spectrin network using the PHIST proteins.[54][36]


Model of binding of RBC and WBC infected by P. falciparum to endothelial cells.[36]

The primary function of PfEMP1 is to bind and attach RBCs to the wall of the blood vessels. The most important binding properties of P. falciparum known to date are mediated by the head structure of PfEMP1, consisting of DBL domains and CIDRs.[55] DBL domains can bind to a variety of cell receptors including thrombospondin (TSP), complement receptor 1 (CR1), chondroitin sulfate A (CSA),[5] P-selectin,[56] endothelial protein C receptor (EPCR),[57] and heparan sulfate.[58] The DBL domain adjacent to the head structure binds to ICAM1.[59] CIDRs mainly bind to a large variety of cluster determinant 36 (CD36).[21][60] These bindings produce the pathogenic characteristics of the parasite, such as sequestration of infected cells in different tissues,[61] invasion of RBCs,[62] and clustering of infected cells by a process called rosetting.[63]

The RBC-binding site of PfEMP1. (A) The head structure (mauve = NTS region, grey = DBL1α1, orange = CIDR1γ) with the docked blood group A (green-blue-black sticks) and heparin (yellow-black sticks) molecules. (B) Detail of the RBC-binding site with bound molecules (yellow = C, blue =N, red = O).[64]

CIDR1 protein in the semi-conserved head structure is the principal and best understood adhesion site of PfEMP1. It binds with CD36 on endothelial cells.[65][66] Only group B and C proteins are able to bind, and that too with only those having CIDRα2-6 sequence types. On the other hand, group A proteins have either CIDRα1 or CIDRβ/γ/δ, and they are responsible for the most severe condition of malaria.[45] Binding with ICAM1 is achieved through the DBLβ domain adjacent to the head structure. However, many PfEMP1s having DBLβ domain do not bind to ICAM1,[67] and it appears that only the DBLβ paired with C2 domain can to bind to ICAM1.[61] The DBLα-CIDRγ tandem pair is the main factor for rosetting,[64] sticking together the infected RBC with the uninfected cells, and thereby clogging of the blood vessels. This activity is performed through binding with CR1.[63][68]

The most dangerous malarial infection is in the brain and is called cerebral malaria. In cerebral malaria, the PfEMP1 proteins involved are DC8 and DC13. They are named after the number of domain cassettes they contain, and are capable of binding not only endothelial cells of the brain, but also in different organs including brain, lung, heart, and bone marrow.[69] Initially, it was assumed that PfEMP1 binds to ICAM1 in the brain, but DC8 and DC13 were found incompatible with ICAM1. Instead DC8 and DC13 specifically bind to EPCR using CIDRα sub-types such as CIDRα1.1, CIDRα1.4, CIDRα1.5 and CIDRα1.7.[57] However, it was later shown that DC13 can bind to both ICAM1 and EPCR.[70] EPCR is thus a potential vaccine and drug target in cerebral malaria.[71]

VAR2CSA is unique in that it is mostly produced by the placenta during pregnancy (the condition called pregnancy-associated malaria, PAM, or placental malaria). The majority of PAM is therefore due to VAR2SCA.[27] Unlike other PfEMP1, VAR2CSA binds to chondroitin sulphate A present on the vascular endothelium of placenta. Although its individual domains can bind to CSA, its entire structure is used for complete binding.[72] The major complication in PAM is low-birth-weight babies. However, women who survived the first infection generally develop an effective immune response. In P. falciparum-prevalent regions in Africa, pregnant women are found to contain high levels of antibody (immunoglobulin G, or IgG) against VAR2CSA, which protect them the placenta-attacking malarial parasite. They are noted for giving birth to heavier babies.[33]

Clinical importance

In a normal human immune system, malarial parasite binding to RBCs stimulates the production of antibodies that attack the PfEMP1 molecules. Binding of antibody with PfEMP1 disables the binding properties of DBL domains, causing loss of cell adhesion, and the infected RBC is destroyed. In this scenario, malaria is avoided.[73] However, to evade the host's immune response, different P. falciparum switch on and off different var genes to produce functionally different (antigenically distinct) PfEMP1s. Each variant type of PfEMP1 has different binding property, and thus, is not always recognized by antibodies.[74]

By default, all the var genes in the malarial parasite are inactivated. Activation (gene expression) of var is initiated upon infection of the organs. Further, in each organ only specific var genes are activated. The severity of the infection is determined by the type of organ in which infection occurs, hence, the type of var gene activated. For examples, in the most severe cases of malaria, such as cerebral malaria, only the var genes for the PfEMP1 proteins DC8 and DC13 are switched on.[75][76] Upon the synthesis of DC8 and DC13, their CIDRα1 domains bind to EPCR, which brings about the onset of severe malaria.[77] The abundance of the gene products (transcripts) of these PfEMP1 proteins (specifically the CIDRα1 subtype transcripts) directly relates to the severity of the disease. This further indicates that preventing the interaction between CIDRα1 and EPCR would be good target for a potential vaccine.[78][79] In pregnancy-associated malaria, another severe type of falciparum malaria, the gene for VAR2CSA (named var2csa) is activated in the placenta. Binding of VAR2CSA to CSA is the primary cause of premature delivery, death of the foetus and severe anaemia in the mother.[72] This indicates that drugs targeting VAR2CSA will be able to prevent the effects of malaria, and for this reason VAR2CSA is the leading candidate for development of a PAM vaccine.[80]


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  37. ^ Gardner MJ, Hall N, Fung E, White O, Berriman M, Hyman RW, Carlton JM, Pain A, Nelson KE, Bowman S, Paulsen IT, James K, Eisen JA, Rutherford K, Salzberg SL, Craig A, Kyes S, Chan MS, Nene V, Shallom SJ, Suh B, Peterson J, Angiuoli S, Pertea M, Allen J, Selengut J, Haft D, Mather MW, Vaidya AB, Martin DM, Fairlamb AH, Fraunholz MJ, Roos DS, Ralph SA, McFadden GI, Cummings LM, Subramanian GM, Mungall C, Venter JC, Carucci DJ, Hoffman SL, Newbold C, Davis RW, Fraser CM, Barrell B (October 2002). "Genome sequence of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum". Nature. 419 (6906): 498–511. doi:10.1038/nature01097. PMC 3836256. PMID 12368864.
  38. ^ Chen Q, Fernandez V, Sundström A, Schlichtherle M, Datta S, Hagblom P, Wahlgren M (July 1998). "Developmental selection of var gene expression in Plasmodium falciparum". Nature. 394 (6691): 392–5. doi:10.1038/28660. PMID 9690477.
  39. ^ Scherf A, Lopez-Rubio JJ, Riviere L (2008). "Antigenic variation in Plasmodium falciparum". Annual Review of Microbiology. 62 (1): 445–70. doi:10.1146/annurev.micro.61.080706.093134. PMID 18785843.
  40. ^ Kyes SA, Kraemer SM, Smith JD (September 2007). "Antigenic variation in Plasmodium falciparum: gene organization and regulation of the var multigene family". Eukaryotic Cell. 6 (9): 1511–20. doi:10.1128/EC.00173-07. PMC 2043368. PMID 17644655.
  41. ^ Kyes SA, Christodoulou Z, Raza A, Horrocks P, Pinches R, Rowe JA, Newbold CI (June 2003). "A well-conserved Plasmodium falciparum var gene shows an unusual stage-specific transcript pattern". Molecular Microbiology. 48 (5): 1339–48. doi:10.1046/j.1365-2958.2003.03505.x. PMC 2869446. PMID 12787360.
  42. ^ Kyriacou HM, Stone GN, Challis RJ, Raza A, Lyke KE, Thera MA, Koné AK, Doumbo OK, Plowe CV, Rowe JA (December 2006). "Differential var gene transcription in Plasmodium falciparum isolates from patients with cerebral malaria compared to hyperparasitaemia". Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology. 150 (2): 211–8. doi:10.1016/j.molbiopara.2006.08.005. PMC 2176080. PMID 16996149.
  43. ^ Kirchner S, Power BJ, Waters AP (September 2016). "Recent advances in malaria genomics and epigenomics". Genome Medicine. 8 (1): 92. doi:10.1186/s13073-016-0343-7. PMC 5015228. PMID 27605022.
  44. ^ Rask TS, Hansen DA, Theander TG, Gorm Pedersen A, Lavstsen T (September 2010). "Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 diversity in seven genomes--divide and conquer". PLoS Computational Biology. 6 (9): e1000933. doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1000933. PMC 2940729. PMID 20862303.
  45. ^ a b Smith JD (July 2014). "The role of PfEMP1 adhesion domain classification in Plasmodium falciparum pathogenesis research". Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology. 195 (2): 82–7. doi:10.1016/j.molbiopara.2014.07.006. PMC 4159067. PMID 25064606.
  46. ^ Mundwiler-Pachlatko E, Beck HP (December 2013). "Maurer's clefts, the enigma of Plasmodium falciparum". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 110 (50): 19987–94. doi:10.1073/pnas.1309247110. PMC 3864307. PMID 24284172.
  47. ^ Warncke JD, Vakonakis I, Beck HP (December 2016). "Plasmodium Helical Interspersed Subtelomeric (PHIST) Proteins, at the Center of Host Cell Remodeling". Microbiology and Molecular Biology Reviews. 80 (4): 905–27. doi:10.1128/MMBR.00014-16. PMC 5116875. PMID 27582258.
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  49. ^ Nagao E, Kaneko O, Dvorak JA (May 2000). "Plasmodium falciparum-infected erythrocytes: qualitative and quantitative analyses of parasite-induced knobs by atomic force microscopy". Journal of Structural Biology. 130 (1): 34–44. doi:10.1006/jsbi.2000.4236. PMID 10806089.
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  52. ^ Crabb BS, Cooke BM, Reeder JC, Waller RF, Caruana SR, Davern KM, Wickham ME, Brown GV, Coppel RL, Cowman AF (April 1997). "Targeted gene disruption shows that knobs enable malaria-infected red cells to cytoadhere under physiological shear stress". Cell. 89 (2): 287–96. doi:10.1016/S0092-8674(00)80207-X. PMID 9108483.
  53. ^ Rug M, Prescott SW, Fernandez KM, Cooke BM, Cowman AF (July 2006). "The role of KAHRP domains in knob formation and cytoadherence of P falciparum-infected human erythrocytes". Blood. 108 (1): 370–8. doi:10.1182/blood-2005-11-4624. PMC 1895844. PMID 16507777.
  54. ^ Oberli A, Slater LM, Cutts E, Brand F, Mundwiler-Pachlatko E, Rusch S, Masik MF, Erat MC, Beck HP, Vakonakis I (October 2014). "A Plasmodium falciparum PHIST protein binds the virulence factor PfEMP1 and comigrates to knobs on the host cell surface". FASEB Journal. 28 (10): 4420–33. doi:10.1096/fj.14-256057. PMC 4202109. PMID 24983468.
  55. ^ Crabb BS, Cowman AF (October 2002). "Plasmodium falciparum virulence determinants unveiled". Genome Biology. 3 (11): REVIEWS1031. doi:10.1186/gb-2002-3-11-reviews1031. PMC 244921. PMID 12441004.
  56. ^ Senczuk AM, Reeder JC, Kosmala MM, Ho M (November 2001). "Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 functions as a ligand for P-selectin". Blood. 98 (10): 3132–5. doi:10.1182/blood.V98.10.3132. PMID 11698301.
  57. ^ a b Turner L, Lavstsen T, Berger SS, Wang CW, Petersen JE, Avril M, Brazier AJ, Freeth J, Jespersen JS, Nielsen MA, Magistrado P, Lusingu J, Smith JD, Higgins MK, Theander TG (June 2013). "Severe malaria is associated with parasite binding to endothelial protein C receptor". Nature. 498 (7455): 502–5. doi:10.1038/nature12216. PMC 3870021. PMID 23739325.
  58. ^ Angeletti D, Sandalova T, Wahlgren M, Achour A (2015). "Binding of subdomains 1/2 of PfEMP1-DBL1α to heparan sulfate or heparin mediates Plasmodium falciparum rosetting". PLOS ONE. 10 (3): e0118898. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0118898. PMC 4351205. PMID 25742651.
  59. ^ Smith JD, Craig AG, Kriek N, Hudson-Taylor D, Kyes S, Fagan T, Fagen T, Pinches R, Baruch DI, Newbold CI, Miller LH (February 2000). "Identification of a Plasmodium falciparum intercellular adhesion molecule-1 binding domain: a parasite adhesion trait implicated in cerebral malaria". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 97 (4): 1766–71. doi:10.1073/pnas.040545897. PMC 26510. PMID 10677532.
  60. ^ Kraemer SM, Smith JD (August 2006). "A family affair: var genes, PfEMP1 binding, and malaria disease". Current Opinion in Microbiology. 9 (4): 374–80. doi:10.1016/j.mib.2006.06.006. PMID 16814594.
  61. ^ a b Howell DP, Levin EA, Springer AL, Kraemer SM, Phippard DJ, Schief WR, Smith JD (January 2008). "Mapping a common interaction site used by Plasmodium falciparum Duffy binding-like domains to bind diverse host receptors". Molecular Microbiology. 67 (1): 78–87. doi:10.1111/j.1365-2958.2007.06019.x. PMID 18047571.
  62. ^ Cowman AF, Crabb BS (February 2006). "Invasion of red blood cells by malaria parasites". Cell. 124 (4): 755–66. doi:10.1016/j.cell.2006.02.006. PMID 16497586.
  63. ^ a b Rowe JA, Moulds JM, Newbold CI, Miller LH (July 1997). "P. falciparum rosetting mediated by a parasite-variant erythrocyte membrane protein and complement-receptor 1". Nature. 388 (6639): 292–5. doi:10.1038/40888. PMID 9230440.
  64. ^ a b Vigan-Womas I, Guillotte M, Juillerat A, Hessel A, Raynal B, England P, Cohen JH, Bertrand O, Peyrard T, Bentley GA, Lewit-Bentley A, Mercereau-Puijalon O (2012). "Structural basis for the ABO blood-group dependence of Plasmodium falciparum rosetting". PLoS Pathogens. 8 (7): e1002781. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002781. PMC 3395597. PMID 22807674.
  65. ^ Baruch DI, Ma XC, Singh HB, Bi X, Pasloske BL, Howard RJ (November 1997). "Identification of a region of PfEMP1 that mediates adherence of Plasmodium falciparum infected erythrocytes to CD36: conserved function with variant sequence". Blood. 90 (9): 3766–75. doi:10.1182/blood.V90.9.3766. PMID 9345064.
  66. ^ Hsieh FL, Turner L, Bolla JR, Robinson CV, Lavstsen T, Higgins MK (September 2016). "The structural basis for CD36 binding by the malaria parasite". Nature Communications. 7: 12837. doi:10.1038/ncomms12837. PMC 5052687. PMID 27667267.
  67. ^ Howell DP, Samudrala R, Smith JD (July 2006). "Disguising itself--insights into Plasmodium falciparum binding and immune evasion from the DBL crystal structure". Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology. 148 (1): 1–9. doi:10.1016/j.molbiopara.2006.03.004. PMID 16621067.
  68. ^ Stoute JA (October 2011). "Complement receptor 1 and malaria". Cellular Microbiology. 13 (10): 1441–50. doi:10.1111/j.1462-5822.2011.01648.x. PMID 21790941.
  69. ^ Avril M, Brazier AJ, Melcher M, Sampath S, Smith JD (2013). "DC8 and DC13 var genes associated with severe malaria bind avidly to diverse endothelial cells". PLoS Pathogens. 9 (6): e1003430. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003430. PMC 3694856. PMID 23825944.
  70. ^ Avril M, Bernabeu M, Benjamin M, Brazier AJ, Smith JD (July 2016). "Interaction between Endothelial Protein C Receptor and Intercellular Adhesion Molecule 1 to Mediate Binding of Plasmodium falciparum-Infected Erythrocytes to Endothelial Cells". mBio. 7 (4): e00615–16. doi:10.1128/mBio.00615-16. PMC 4958245. PMID 27406562.
  71. ^ Lau CK, Turner L, Jespersen JS, Lowe ED, Petersen B, Wang CW, Petersen JE, Lusingu J, Theander TG, Lavstsen T, Higgins MK (January 2015). "Structural conservation despite huge sequence diversity allows EPCR binding by the PfEMP1 family implicated in severe childhood malaria". Cell Host & Microbe. 17 (1): 118–29. doi:10.1016/j.chom.2014.11.007. PMC 4297295. PMID 25482433.
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This page is based on a Wikipedia article. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share-Alike License.

This tab holds the annotation information that is stored in the Pfam database. As we move to using Wikipedia as our main source of annotation, the contents of this tab will be gradually replaced by the Wikipedia tab.

PFEMP1 DBL domain Provide feedback

PfEMP1 (Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein) has been identified as the rosetting ligand of the malaria parasite P. falciparum [1,2]. Rosetting is the adhesion of infected erythrocytes with uninfected erythrocytes in the vasculature of the infected organ, and is associated with severe malaria. PfEMP1 interacts with Complement Receptor One on uninfected erythrocytes to form rosettes [2]. The extreme variation within these proteins and the grouping of var genes implies that var gene recombination preferentially occurs within var gene groups. These groups reflect a functional diversification that has evolved to cope with the varying conditions of transmission and host immune response met by the parasite [3]. A recombination hotspot was uncovered between Duffy-binding-like (DBL) subdomains [4]. Solution of the crystal structure of the N-terminal and first DBL region of PfEMP1 from the VarO variant of the PfEMP1 protein is found to be directly implicated in rosetting as the heparin-binding site [5].

Literature references

  1. Chen Q, Barragan A, Fernandez V, Sundstrom A, Schlichtherle M, Sahlen A, Carlson J, Datta S, Wahlgren M; , J Exp Med 1998;187:15-23.: Identification of Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 (PfEMP1) as the rosetting ligand of the malaria parasite P. falciparum. PUBMED:9419207 EPMC:9419207

  2. Rowe JA, Moulds JM, Newbold CI, Miller LH; , Nature 1997;388:292-295.: P. falciparum rosetting mediated by a parasite-variant erythrocyte membrane protein and complement-receptor 1. PUBMED:9230440 EPMC:9230440

  3. Lavstsen T, Salanti A, Jensen AT, Arnot DE, Theander TG;, Malar J. 2003;2:27.: Sub-grouping of Plasmodium falciparum 3D7 var genes based on sequence analysis of coding and non-coding regions. PUBMED:14565852 EPMC:14565852

  4. Rask TS, Hansen DA, Theander TG, Gorm Pedersen A, Lavstsen T;, PLoS Comput Biol. 2010; [Epub ahead of print]: Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1 diversity in seven genomes--divide and conquer. PUBMED:20862303 EPMC:20862303

  5. Juillerat A, Lewit-Bentley A, Guillotte M, Gangnard S, Hessel A, Baron B, Vigan-Womas I, England P, Mercereau-Puijalon O, Bentley GA;, Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2011;108:5243-5248.: Structure of a Plasmodium falciparum PfEMP1 rosetting domain reveals a role for the N-terminal segment in heparin-mediated rosette inhibition. PUBMED:21402930 EPMC:21402930

This tab holds annotation information from the InterPro database.

InterPro entry IPR004258

Plasmodium Duffy Binding-Like (DBL) domains mediate diverse receptor-ligand interactions critical for invasion, cytoadherence, sequestration and the pathogenesis of malaria [ PUBMED:21743458 ]. Members of the erythrocyte binding-like (EBL) superfamily contain one or two extracellular cysteine-rich DBL domains.

Domain organisation

Below is a listing of the unique domain organisations or architectures in which this domain is found. More...

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Pfam Clan

This family is a member of clan DBL (CL0195), which has the following description:

This clan includes DBL (Duffy-binding like) domains from a variety of plasmodium surface proteins.

The clan contains the following 2 members:

Duffy_binding PFEMP


We store a range of different sequence alignments for families. As well as the seed alignment from which the family is built, we provide the full alignment, generated by searching the sequence database (reference proteomes) using the family HMM. We also generate alignments using four representative proteomes (RP) sets and the UniProtKB sequence database. More...

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We make a range of alignments for each Pfam-A family. You can see a description of each above. You can view these alignments in various ways but please note that some types of alignment are never generated while others may not be available for all families, most commonly because the alignments are too large to handle.

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We make all of our alignments available in Stockholm format. You can download them here as raw, plain text files or as gzip-compressed files.

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You can also download a FASTA format file containing the full-length sequences for all sequences in the full alignment.

HMM logo

HMM logos is one way of visualising profile HMMs. Logos provide a quick overview of the properties of an HMM in a graphical form. You can see a more detailed description of HMM logos and find out how you can interpret them here. More...


This page displays the phylogenetic tree for this family's seed alignment. We use FastTree to calculate neighbour join trees with a local bootstrap based on 100 resamples (shown next to the tree nodes). FastTree calculates approximately-maximum-likelihood phylogenetic trees from our seed alignment.

Note: You can also download the data file for the tree.

Curation and family details

This section shows the detailed information about the Pfam family. You can see the definitions of many of the terms in this section in the glossary and a fuller explanation of the scoring system that we use in the scores section of the help pages.

Curation View help on the curation process

Seed source: Pfam-B_822 (release 6.4)
Previous IDs: none
Type: Domain
Sequence Ontology: SO:0000417
Author: Griffiths-Jones SR , Bateman A
Number in seed: 11
Number in full: 1470
Average length of the domain: 144.60 aa
Average identity of full alignment: 28 %
Average coverage of the sequence by the domain: 12.46 %

HMM information View help on HMM parameters

HMM build commands:
build method: hmmbuild -o /dev/null HMM SEED
search method: hmmsearch -Z 61295632 -E 1000 --cpu 4 HMM pfamseq
Model details:
Parameter Sequence Domain
Gathering cut-off 23.0 23.0
Trusted cut-off 23.0 23.0
Noise cut-off 22.9 22.9
Model length: 160
Family (HMM) version: 18
Download: download the raw HMM for this family

Species distribution

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Colour assignments

Archea Archea Eukaryota Eukaryota
Bacteria Bacteria Other sequences Other sequences
Viruses Viruses Unclassified Unclassified
Viroids Viroids Unclassified sequence Unclassified sequence


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This visualisation provides a simple graphical representation of the distribution of this family across species. You can find the original interactive tree in the adjacent tab. More...

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For those sequences which have a structure in the Protein DataBank, we use the mapping between UniProt, PDB and Pfam coordinate systems from the PDBe group, to allow us to map Pfam domains onto UniProt sequences and three-dimensional protein structures. The table below shows the structures on which the PFEMP domain has been found. There are 22 instances of this domain found in the PDB. Note that there may be multiple copies of the domain in a single PDB structure, since many structures contain multiple copies of the same protein sequence.

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AlphaFold Structure Predictions

The list of proteins below match this family and have AlphaFold predicted structures. Click on the protein accession to view the predicted structure.

Protein Predicted structure External Information
A0A143ZY53 View 3D Structure Click here
A0A143ZZY8 View 3D Structure Click here
A0A144A1K0 View 3D Structure Click here
C6KT15 View 3D Structure Click here
C6KTF9 View 3D Structure Click here
O96108 View 3D Structure Click here
O96296 View 3D Structure Click here
O97312 View 3D Structure Click here
O97324 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I1V6 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I1V7 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I220 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I2C4 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I2E3 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I3E5 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I495 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I4N5 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I519 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I520 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I521 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I5L5 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8I643 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IAK1 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IAS3 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IAS4 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IAS7 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBD8 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBW7 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBW8 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBW9 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBX0 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBX1 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBX2 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IBX3 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8ID12 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IEV1 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IFK7 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IFQ2 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IFQ4 View 3D Structure Click here
Q8IFQ5 View 3D Structure Click here