During the blood stage of malaria pathogenesis, parasites invade healthy red blood cells (RBC) to multiply inside the host and evade the immune response. When attached to RBC, the parasite first has to align its apex with the membrane for a successful invasion. Since the parasite's apex sits at the pointed end of an oval (egg-like) shape with a large local curvature, apical alignment is in general an energetically un-favorable process. Previously, using coarse-grained mesoscopic simulations, we have shown that optimal alignment time is achieved due to RBC membrane deformation and the stochastic nature of bond-based interactions between the parasite and RBC membrane (Hillringhaus et al., 2020). Here, we demonstrate that the parasite's shape has a prominent effect on the alignment process. The alignment times of spherical parasites for intermediate and large bond off-rates (or weak membrane-parasite interactions) are found to be close to those of an egg-like shape. However, for small bond off-rates (or strong adhesion and large membrane deformations), the alignment time for a spherical shape increases drastically. Parasite shapes with large aspect ratios such as oblate and long prolate ellipsoids are found to exhibit very long alignment times in comparison to the egg-like shape. At a stiffened RBC, spherical parasite aligns faster than any other investigated shapes. This study shows that the original egg-like shape performs not worse for parasite alignment than other considered shapes, but is more robust with respect to different adhesion interactions and RBC membrane rigidities.
All data generated or analysed during this study are included in the manuscript and supporting files. Source data for all figures are provided.
- Sebastian Hillringhaus
The funders had no role in study design, data collection and interpretation, or the decision to submit the work for publication.
- Raymond E Goldstein, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
- Received: March 29, 2021
- Accepted: July 20, 2021
- Accepted Manuscript published: July 21, 2021 (version 1)
© 2021, Dasanna et al.
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