Digestive vacuole membrane in plasmodium falciparum -infected erythrocytes: Relevance to templated nucleation of hemozoin

Sergey Kapishnikov, Allon Weiner, Eyal Shimoni, Gerd Schneider, Michael Elbaum, Leslie Leiserowitz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Crystallization of the malaria pigment hemozoin sequesters the toxic heme byproduct of hemoglobin digestion in Plasmodium-infected red blood cells (RBCs). Recently, we applied electron and X-ray imaging and diffraction methods to elucidate this process. We observed crystals oriented with their {100} faces at the inner membrane surface of the digestive vacuole (DV) of Plasmodium falciparum in parasitized RBCs. Modeling of the soft X-ray tomographic (SXT) images of a trophozoite-stage parasite indicated a 4-16 nm DV membrane thickness, suggesting a possible role for lipid multilayers. Here, we reanalyzed the trophozoite SXT images quantitatively via X-ray absorption to map the DV membrane thickness. Making use of the chemical structure and crystal density of the lipid, we found, predominantly, a bilayer 4.2 nm thick, and the remainder was interpreted as patches ∼8 nm thick. Image analysis of electron micrographs also yielded a 4-5 nm DV membrane thickness. The DV lipid membrane is thus mainly a bilayer, so induced hemozoin nucleation occurs primarily via the inner of the membrane's two leaflets. We argue that such a leaflet embodying mono- and di-acyl lipids with appropriate OH or NH bearing head groups may catalyse hemozoin nucleation by stereochemical and lattice match to the {100} crystal face, involving a two-dimensional nucleation aggregate of ∼100 molecules.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)14595-14602
Number of pages8
Issue number47
StatePublished - 26 Nov 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Spectroscopy
  • General Materials Science
  • Surfaces and Interfaces
  • Electrochemistry


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