Humans and mice infected with different Plasmodium strains are known to produce microvesicles derived from the infected red blood cells (RBCs), denoted RMVs. Studies in mice have shown that RMVs are elevated during infection and have proinflammatory activity. Here we present a detailed characterization of RMV composition and function in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Proteomics profiling revealed the enrichment of multiple host and parasite proteins, in particular of parasite antigens associated with host cell membranes and proteins involved in parasite invasion into RBCs. RMVs are quantitatively released during the asexual parasite cycle prior to parasite egress. RMVs demonstrate potent immunomodulatory properties on human primary macrophages and neutrophils. Additionally, RMVs are internalized by infected red blood cells and stimulate production of transmission stage parasites in a dose-dependent manner. Thus, RMVs mediate cellular communication within the parasite population and with the host innate immune system.
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