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Summary

Malaria remains a serious public health problem with significant morbidity and mortality accounting for nearly 20% of all childhood deaths in Africa. The cyclical invasion, cytoadherence and destruction of the host's erythrocyte by the parasite are responsible for the observed disease pathology. The invasive form of the parasite, the merozoite, uses a complex set of interactions between parasite ligands and erythrocyte receptors that leads to the formation of a tight junction and ultimately successful erythrocyte invasion. Understanding the molecular mechanism underlying host cell recognition and invasion is crucial for the development of a targeted intervention strategy. Two parasite protein families termed reticulocyte-binding-like protein homologues (RBL) and the erythrocyte-binding-like (EBL) protein family are conserved in all Plasmodium species and have been shown to play an important role in host cell recognition and invasion. Over the last few years significant new insights have been gained in understanding the function of the RBL family and this review attempts to provide an update with a specific focus on the role of RBL in signal transduction pathways during invasion.