The intraerythrocytic development of P. falciparum induces N ew P ermeability P athways (NPP) in the membrane of the parasitized erythrocyte which provide the parasite with nutrients, adjust the erythrocyte electrolyte composition to the needs of the parasite, and dispose of metabolic waste products and osmolytes. Patch-clamp recordings identified inwardly and outwardly rectifying (OR) anion conductances in the host erythrocyte membrane as electrophysiological correlate of the NPP. The OR conductance is regulated by serum. Here we show that serum albumin (SA) stimulated OR-generated Cl- and lactate outward currents with an EC50 of approximately 100 nM while other proteins such as ovalbumin or casein did not. The stimulatory efficacy did not differ between fatty acid free bovine SA and recombinant human SA and disruption of the SA tertiary structure abolished the effect suggesting that intact SA protein and not other bound factors interact with the erythrocyte membrane. Taken together, the data indicate a high affinity and specificity interaction of native SA with the parasitized erythrocytes which might underlie the observed dependence of P. falciparum growth in vitro on SA.

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