Magnetic susceptibility of iron in malaria-infected red blood cells

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    During intra-erythrocytic maturation, malaria parasites catabolize up to 80% of cellular haemoglobin. Haem is liberated inside the parasite and converted to haemozoin, preventing haem iron from participating in cell-damaging reactions. Several experimental techniques exploit the relatively large paramagnetic susceptibility of malaria-infected cells as a means of sorting cells or investigating haemoglobin degradation, but the source of the dramatic increase in cellular magnetic susceptibility during parasite growth has not been unequivocally determined. Plasmodium falciparum cultures were enriched using high-gradient magnetic fractionation columns and the magnetic susceptibility of cell contents was directly measured. The forms of haem iron in the erythrocytes were quantified spectroscopically. In the 3D7 laboratory strain, the parasites converted approximately 60% of host cell haemoglobin to haemozoin and this product was the primary source of the increase in cell magnetic susceptibility. Haemozoin iron was found to have a magnetic susceptibility of (11.0 ± 0.9) × 10− 3 mL mol− 1. The calculated volumetric magnetic susceptibility (SI units) of the magnetically enriched cells was (1.88 ± 0.60) × 10− 6 relative to water while that of uninfected cells was not significantly different from water. Magnetic enrichment of parasitised cells can therefore be considered dependent primarily on the magnetic susceptibility of the parasitised cells.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)93-99
    JournalBiochimica et Biophysica Acta - Molecular Basis of Disease
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2009


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