How do RIFINs and STEVORs modulate human immune cell function in malaria?


  • Prof Michael Dustin

    University of Oxford, United Kingdom

  • Prof Matthew Higgins

    University of Oxford, United Kingdom

  • Prof Shiroh Iwanaga

    Osaka University, Japan

  • Prof Gavin Wright

    University of York, United Kingdom

  • Prof Hisashi Arase

    Osaka University, Japan

Project summary

The battle between a parasite and the human immune system is central to our control and elimination of infectious diseases, such as malaria. Amongst the key weapons of our immune system are immune cells. These seek and destroy infectious agents while ignoring cells of our own bodies. The tiny parasites that cause malaria can hide within human blood cells and our immune cells search them out. The malaria parasite places proteins, called RIFINs, on infected blood cell surfaces. This is surprising, as it makes detection of the parasite by our immune system more likely. So, what do RIFINs, and related molecules, do? Some RIFINs can mimic human molecules which decorate our cells, marking them to be saved from destruction. RIFINs can therefore bind receptors on immune cell and can convince them that malaria-infected cells should not be destroyed, protecting the parasite within. We aim to discover how they do this.