Elucidating the mechanism of reticulocyte-specific invasion by Plasmodium vivax
The goal of this research is to delineate the molecular interactions important for erythrocyte invasion by P. vivax. At present, the Duffy antigen/receptor for chemokine (DARC) is the only demonstrated erythrocyte surface protein that mediates invasion by this parasite. However, recent findings of Duffy-negative erythrocyte infection suggest that an alternative invasion pathway exists and that it likely relies on the parasite's reticulocyte binding proteins (RBPs).
The specific goals are:
- To examine the expression repertoire of these RBPs across the population and identify the most widely expressed member,
- To characterize RBP binding and identify the host cell receptors, and
- To examine whether blocking RBP-reticulocyte binding inhibits invasion. The findings will directly address the role of RBPs in reticulocyte invasion and demonstrate their potential as vaccine targets.