Aside from its profound clinical importance, the human malaria parasite, P. falciparum, is intrinsically fascinating to the cell biologist because it resides within the mature red blood cell (RBC). Because the inert RBC cannot otherwise provide sufficient amounts of key substrates to fuel the vigorous parasite metabolism, the parasite must have specialized adaptations for getting these solutes into the RBC and scavenging them from RBC cytosol. Two unusual ion channels have recently been identified within the infected RBC complex; these channels likely function in a sequential diffusive pathway of nutrient acquisition by the intracellular parasite. If so, they present novel opportunities for identification of ion channel inhibitors that may be useful antimalarial compounds.
Keywords: ion channels, malaria, plasmodium falciparum, high-throughput screening
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