A devastating complication of Plasmodium falciparum infection is cerebral malaria, in which vascular leakage and cerebral swelling lead to coma and often death. P. falciparum produces a protein called histidine-rich protein II (HRPII) that accumulates to high levels in the bloodstream of patients and serves as a diagnostic and prognostic marker for falciparum malaria. Using a human cerebral microvascular endothelial barrier model, we previously found that HRPII activates the endothelial cell inflammasome, resulting in decreased integrity of tight junctions and increased endothelial barrier permeability. Here, we report that intravenous administration of HRPII induced blood-brain barrier leakage in uninfected mice. Furthermore, HRPII infusion in P. berghei-infected mice increased early mortality from experimental cerebral malaria. These data support the hypothesis that HRPII is a virulence factor that contributes to cerebral malaria by compromising the integrity of the blood-brain barrier.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0177142
JournalPloS one
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2017


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