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Intraerythrocytic Plasmodium falciparum utilize a broad range of serum-derived fatty acids with limited modification for their growth

  • F. MI-ICHI (a1) (a2), K. KITA (a2) and T. MITAMURA (a1)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 June 2006

Plasmodium falciparum causes the most severe form of malaria. Utilization of fatty acids in serum is thought to be necessary for survival of this parasite in erythrocytes, and thus characterization of the parasite fatty acid metabolism is important in developing a new strategy for controlling malaria. Here, we examined which combinations of fatty acids present in human serum support the continuous culture of P. falciparum in serum-free medium. Metabolic labelling and gas chromatography analyses revealed that, despite the need for particular fatty acids for the growth of intraerythrocytic P. falciparum, it can metabolize a broad range of serum-derived fatty acids into the major lipid species of their membranes and lipid bodies. In addition, these analyses showed that the parasite's overall fatty acid composition reflects that of the medium, although the parasite has a limited capacity to desaturate and elongate serum-derived fatty acids. These results indicate that the Plasmodium parasite is distinct from most cells, which maintain their fatty acid composition by coordinating de novo biosynthesis, scavenging, and modification (desaturation and elongation).

Corresponding author
Department of Molecular Protozoology, Research Institute for Microbial Diseases, Osaka University, 3-1 Yamadaoka, Suita, Osaka 565-0871, Japan. Tel: +81 6 6879 8279. Fax: +81 6 6879 8281. E-mail:
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  • ISSN: 0031-1820
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