In this study, we investigated the production of endothelin 1 (ET-1) by a human microvascular endothelial cell line, HMEC-1, co-cultured with Plasmodium falciparum-parasitized red blood cells (pRBCs). The results indicate that hypoxia increased the basal level of ET-1 production by HMEC-1 cells after 24 or 48h of treatment. However, the co-incubation of HMEC-1 cells with pRBCs, but not with uninfected RBCs, induced a dose-dependent decrease of both constitutive and hypoxia-induced ET-1 production. The inhibition was not due to a decrease in cell viability, as lactate dehydrogenase release remained constant. These results indicate that pRBCs are able to interfere with both the constitutive and stimulated ET-1 release from the microvascular endothelium, thus inducing local modifications of the vascular tone and of the inflammatory response. This could be of relevance in the pathogenesis of the most severe forms of P. falciparum infections, such as cerebral malaria or malaria during pregnancy.

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