We describe here an immunoradiometric assay to quantitate the in vitro invasion of hepatoma cells by sporozoites. The assay measures levels of circumsporozoite (CS) antigen that remain associated with the hepatoma cells after their incubation with the parasites. Several observations show that these measurements reflect internalized rather than extracellular antigen. For example, when incubations were performed with nonviable parasites (sonicated or heated), or in the presence of metabolic inhibitors, such as sodium azide and deoxyglucose, the amounts of CS antigen found in hepatoma cell extracts were greatly diminished. Moreover, Western blotting experiments revealed a striking difference in the pattern of CS proteins of infected cell extracts as compared with those of free parasites. The assay was used to measure the amounts of intracellular CS antigen for several days after infection of the hepatoma cells. The results confirmed previous microscopic observations, made by using immunofluorescence techniques, showing that the CS antigen in the host's liver cells diminishes progressively while the parasite develops into the exoerythrocytic stage. The immunoradiometric assay should facilitate the evaluation of the effects of drugs on sporozoites and also on studies aimed at the identification of a sporozoite receptor on the hepatocyte.

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