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London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine Malaria Centre

Featured malaria publication - Parasitology Research

 
Image: ookinetes after a genetic cross between two distinct parasites lines
 

Image: ookinetes after a genetic cross between two distinct parasites lines

29 November 2014
Article provides first genetic evidence that alveolins are necessary for asexual blood-stage parasite development in Plasmodium

Distinct temporal recruitment of Plasmodium alveolins to the subpellicular network.

Tremp AZ, Al-Khattaf FS, Dessens JT

Abstract

The zoite stages of malaria parasites (merozoite, ookinete and sporozoite) possess a distinctive cortical structure termed the pellicle, which is defined by a double membrane layer named the inner membrane complex (IMC). The IMC is supported by a cytoskeleton of intermediate filaments, termed the subpellicular network (SPN). Plasmodium IMC1 proteins, or alveolins, make up a conserved family of structurally related proteins that comprise building blocks of the SPN. Here, using green fluorescent protein (GFP) tagging in P. berghei, we show that the alveolins PbIMC1c and PbIMC1e are expressed in all three zoite stages. Our data reveal that PbIMC1e is assembled into the SPN concurrent with pellicle development, while PbIMC1c is assembled after pellicle formation. In the sexual stages, these processes are accompanied by different gene expressions from maternal and paternal alleles: PbIMC1e is expressed uniquely from the maternal allele, while PbIMC1c is expressed from the maternal allele in gametocytes, but from both parental alleles during ookinete development. These findings establish biogenesis of the cortical cytoskeleton in Plasmodium to be a complex and dynamic process, involving distinct parental gene expression and chronological recruitment of its protein constituents. While allelic replacement of the pbimc1c and pbimc1e genes with GFP-tagged versions was readily achieved using double crossover homologous recombination, attempts to disrupt these genes by this strategy only resulted in the integration of the selectable marker and GFP reporter into non-specific genomic locations. The recurrent inability to disrupt these genes provides the first genetic evidence that alveolins are necessary for asexual blood-stage parasite development in Plasmodium.

Access the full article in Parasitology Research.