2,3-Diphosphoglycerate and the Protective Effect of Pyruvate Kinase Deficiency against Malaria Infection—Exploring the Role of the Red Blood Cell Membrane

Maria Carvalho, Márcia M. Medeiros, Inês Morais, Catarina S. Lopes, Ana Balau, Nuno C. Santos, Filomena A. Carvalho, Ana Paula Arez

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3 Citations (Scopus)
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Malaria remains a major world public health problem, contributing to poverty and inequality. It is urgent to find new efficacious tools with few adverse effects. Malaria has selected red blood cell (RBC) alterations linked to resistance against infection, and understanding the protective mechanisms involved may be useful for developing host-directed tools to control Plasmodium infection. Pyruvate kinase deficiency has been associated with resistance to malaria. Pyruvate
kinase-deficient RBCs display an increased concentration of 2,3-diphosphoglycerate (2,3-DPG).We recently showed that 2,3-DPG impacts in vitro intraerythrocytic parasite growth, induces a shift of the metabolic profile of infected cells (iRBCs), making it closer to that of noninfected ones (niRBCs), and decreases the number of parasite progenies that invade new RBCs. As an increase of 2,3-DPG content may also have an adverse effect on RBC membrane and, consequently, on the parasite invasion, in this study, we explored modifications of the RBC morphology, biomechanical properties, and RBC membrane on Plasmodium falciparum in vitro cultures treated with 2,3-DPG, using atomic force microscopy (AFM)-based force spectroscopy and other experimental approaches. The presence of infection by P. falciparum significantly increased the rigidity of parasitized cells and influenced the morphology of RBCs, as parasitized cells showed a decrease of the area-to-volume ratio. The extracellular addition of 2,3-DPG also slightly affected the stiffness of niRBCs, making it more similar to that of infected cells. It also changed the niRBC height, making the cells appear more elongated. Moreover, 2,3-DPG treatment influenced the cell surface charge, becoming more negative in treated RBCs than in untreated ones. The results indicate that treatment with 2,3-DPG has only a mild effect on RBCs in comparison with the effect of the presence of the parasite on the host cell. 2,3-DPG is an endogenous host metabolite, which may, in the future, originate a new antimalarial tool with few
adverse effects on noninfected cells.
Original languageEnglish
Article number1336
Pages (from-to)1336
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number24
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jan 2023


  • malaria
  • 2,3-diphosphoglycerate
  • red blood cell
  • erythrocyte
  • morphology
  • Membrane properties


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