Further Plasmodium falciparum protein discovery

News article
19 January 2012

Part of what makes malaria difficult to tackle is its ability to hide from the human immune system. Today, research has been published in the journal Cell Host and Microbe that brings us a step closer to understanding how this is achieved by the parasite. 

Plasmodium falciparum parasite. Photo credit: NIAID, Flickr 2013, CC-BY2.0.

The research has identified a molecule in Plasmodium falciparum, called PfSET10 that plays a role in the genetic control of the membrane protein PfEMP1 (Plasmodium falciparum erythrocyte membrane protein 1).  PfEMP1 is a surface membrane protein which enables the parasite to adhere to the lining of the host blood vessels, and has a variant genetic code ensuring a percentage of the parasites remain undetected.

The identification of PfSET10 and it’s specific localisation to the gene expression site for PfEMP1 variation, is a step towards unravelling exactly how P. falciparum is able to hide from the immune system.


Volz et alPfSET10, a Plasmodium falciparum methyltransferase, maintains the active var gene in a poised state during parasite division. Cell Host Microbe. 2012 Jan 19;11(1):7-18. doi: 10.1016/j.chom.2011.11.011.