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The effects of synthetic malaria pigment (beta-haematin, BH) on the expression of the intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) and platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule 1 (PECAM-1) and the production of interleukin-6 (IL-6) by human microvascular endothelial cells were measured using flow cytometry analysis and immunoenzymatic assay. BH alone did not affect basal levels of ICAM-1, PECAM-1 or IL-6. When added to cell cultures before or with, but not after, lipopolysaccharide or tumour necrosis factor alpha, BH at 1-100 micrograms/mL induced a dose-dependent inhibition of ICAM-1 and PECAM-1 expression and IL-6 production. Cell viability and human leucocyte antigen A,B,C expression remained unaffected. Similar, though more variable, results were obtained using human umbilical vein endothelial cells. These results suggested that accumulation of pigment within endothelial cells following repeated malaria infection reduces local inflammation and parasite sequestration through inhibition of either cytokine production or parasitized erythrocyte receptors on endothelial cells.

Original publication




Journal article


Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Publication Date





57 - 62


Institute of Medical Microbiology, University of Milan, Italy.


Endothelium, Vascular, Animals, Humans, Plasmodium falciparum, Hemin, Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha, Intercellular Adhesion Molecule-1, Interleukin-6, Platelet Endothelial Cell Adhesion Molecule-1