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Keywords:

  • malaria pigment;
  • hemozoin;
  • monosodium urate;
  • asbestos;
  • immune recognition;
  • signal transduction

Abstract

Blood-stage malaria parasites produce insoluble hemozoin (Hz) crystals that are released in the blood circulation upon schizont rupture. In general, endogenous crystal formation or inhalation of crystalline materials is often associated with pathology. As the immune system responds differently to crystalline particles than to soluble molecules, in this review, the properties, immunological recognition, and pathogenic responses of Hz are discussed, and compared with two other major pathogenic crystals, monosodium urate (MSU) and asbestos. Because of the size and shape of MSU crystals and asbestos fibers, phagolysosomal formation is inefficient and often results in leakage of lysosomal content in the cell cytoplasm and/or in the extracellular environment with subsequent cell damage and cell death. Phagolysosomal formation after Hz ingestion is normal, but Hz remains stored inside these cells for months or even longer without any detectable degradation. Nonetheless, the different types of crystals are recognized by similar immune receptors, involving Toll-like receptors, the inflammasome, antibodies, and/or complement factors, and through similar signaling cascades, they activate both proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune responses that contribute to inflammation-associated pathology. BioFactors, 40(1):59–78, 2014