Importance of Erythrocyte Deformability for the Alignment of Malaria Parasite upon Invasion
S Hillringhaus and AK Dasanna and G Gompper and DA Fedosov, BIOPHYSICAL JOURNAL, 117, 1202-1214 (2019).
Invasion of erythrocytes by merozoites is an essential step for the survival and progression of malaria parasites. To invade red blood cells (RBCs), apicomplexan parasites have to adhere with their apex to the RBC membrane. This necessary apex-membrane contact (or alignment) is not immediately established because the orientation of a free merozoite with respect to the RBC membrane is random when an adhesion contact first occurs. Therefore, it has been suggested that after the initial adhesion, merozoites facilitate their proper alignment by inducing considerable membrane deformations, frequently observed before the invasion process. This proposition is based on a positive correlation between RBC membrane deformation and successful invasion; however, the role of RBC mechanics and its deformation in the alignment process remains elusive. Using a mechanically realistic model of a deformable RBC, we investigate numerically the importance of RBC deformability for merozoite alignment. Adhesion between the parasite and RBC membrane is modeled by an attractive potential that might be inhomogeneous, mimicking possible adhesion gradients at the surface of a parasite. Our results show that RBC membrane deformations are crucial for successful merozoite alignment and require interaction strengths comparable to adhesion forces measured experimentally. Adhesion gradients along the parasite body further improve its alignment. Finally, an increased membrane rigidity is found to result in poor merozoite alignment, which can be a possible reason for a reduction in the invasion susceptibility of RBCs in several blood diseases associated with membrane stiffening.
Return to Publications page