Malaria parasites invade healthy red blood cells (RBCs) during the blood stage of the disease. Even though parasites initially adhere to RBCs with a random orientation, they need to align their apex toward the membrane in order to start the invasion process. Using hydrodynamic simulations of a RBC and parasite, where both interact through discrete stochastic bonds, we show that parasite alignment is governed by the combination of RBC membrane deformability and dynamics of adhesion bonds. The stochastic nature of bond-based interactions facilitates a diffusive-like re-orientation of the parasite at the RBC membrane, while RBC deformation aids in the establishment of apex-membrane contact through partial parasite wrapping by the membrane. This bond-based model for parasite adhesion quantitatively captures alignment times measured experimentally and demonstrates that alignment times increase drastically with increasing rigidity of the RBC membrane. Our results suggest that the alignment process is mediated simply by passive parasite adhesion.
The authors declare that there was no funding for this work.
- Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
© 2020, Hillringhaus et al.
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