In vivo compartmental kinetics of Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein II in the blood of humans and in BALB/c mice infected with a transgenic Plasmodium berghei parasite expressing histidine-rich protein II

Kristin E. Poti, Amanda E. Balaban, Priya Pal, Tamaki Kobayashi, Daniel E. Goldberg, Photini Sinnis, David J. Sullivan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Background: The Plasmodium falciparum histidine-rich protein II (PfHRP2) is a common biomarker used in malaria rapid diagnostic tests (RDTs), but can persist in the blood for up to 40 days following curative treatment. The persistence of PfHRP2 presents a false positive limitation to diagnostic interpretation. However, the in vivo dynamics and compartmentalization underlying PfHRP2 persistence have not been fully characterized in the plasma and erythrocyte (RBC) fraction of the whole blood. Methods: The kinetics and persistence of PfHRP2 in the plasma and RBC fractions of the whole blood were investigated post-treatment in human clinical samples and samples isolated from BALB/c mice infected with a novel transgenic Plasmodium berghei parasite engineered to express PfHRP2 (PbPfHRP2). Results: PfHRP2 levels in human RBCs were consistently 20-40 times greater than plasma levels, even post-parasite clearance. PfHRP2 positive, DNA negative, once-infected RBCs were identified in patients that comprised 0.1-1% of total RBCs for 6 and 12 days post-treatment, even post-atovaquone-proguanil regimens. Transgenic PbPfHRP2 parasites in BALB/c mice produced and exported tgPfHRP2 to the RBC cytosol similar to P. falciparum. As in humans, tgPfHRP2 levels were found to be approximately 20-fold higher within the RBC fraction than the plasma post-treatment. RBC localized tgPfHRP2 persisted longer than tgPfHRP2 in the plasma after curative treatment. tgPfHRP2 positive, but DNA negative once-infected RBCs were also detected in mouse peripheral blood for 7-9 days after curative treatment. Conclusions: The data suggest that persistence of PfHRP2 is due to slower clearance of protein from the RBC fraction of the whole blood. This appears to be a result of the presence PfHRP2 in previously infected, pitted cells, as opposed to PfHRP2 binding naïve RBCs in circulation post-treatment. The results thus confirm that the extended duration of RDT positivity after parasite clearance is likely due to pitted, once-infected RBCs that remain positive for PfHRP2.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number78
JournalMalaria journal
Volume18
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 13 2019

Keywords

  • Erythrocyte pitting
  • HRP2
  • Histidine-rich protein II
  • Malaria
  • Once-infected RBCs
  • Persistence
  • Plasmodium berghei
  • Rapid diagnostic test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases

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