Infection with Plasmodium falciparum during pregnancy leads to chondroitin 4-sulfate-mediated adhesion of the infected red blood cells (IRBCs) in the placenta, causing severe health complications to fetus and the mother. The IRBCs are also frequently found in low density in the umbilical cord of infected placentas. In this study, the CSPGs of umbilical vein and arteries were purified, characterized, and their localization and IRBC-binding abilities were studied. While a versican type CSPG was found both in the vein and arteries, a serglycin type CSPG was present exclusively in the vein. The CSPGs were present at significant level on the endothelial surface of the umbilical vein but not on that of arteries. Although the purified versican and serglycin type CSPGs could bind IRBCs, their binding abilities were significantly less compared to the low sulfated CSPGs of the placenta because of the predominance of 6-sulfated disaccharide moieties in the CS chains. Therefore, IRBCs were unable to bind efficiently onto the umbilical cord endothelial surface. Unexpectedly, however, the IRBCs adhered densely in the blood vessels of fetal villi in the placental tissue sections and sparingly in the blood spaces of the umbilical cord vein, presumably because the CSPG that can efficiently bind IRBCs is present at high levels in the fetal blood vessels and at very low levels in the umbilical cord blood vessels. Since the C4S-adherent IRBCs that enter the fetal blood vessels cannot adhere to the cord endothelial surface and parasites cannot efficiently grow due to fetal hemoglobin toxicity and protection by maternal antibodies, transplacental infection may be quickly cleared without clinical episodes.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Molecular Biology