A male gametocyte osmiophilic body and microgamete surface protein of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii (PyMiGS) plays a critical role in male osmiophilic body formation and exflagellation.
ABSTRACT: Anopheles mosquitoes transmit Plasmodium parasites of mammals, including the species that cause malaria in humans. Malaria pathology is caused by rapid multiplication of parasites in asexual intraerythrocytic cycles. Sexual stage parasites are also produced during the intraerythrocytic cycle and are ingested by the mosquito, initiating gametogenesis and subsequent sporogonic stage development. Here, we present a Plasmodium protein, termed microgamete surface protein (MiGS), which has an important role in male gametocyte osmiophilic body (MOB) formation and microgamete function. MiGS is expressed exclusively in male gametocytes and microgametes, in which MiGS localises to the MOB and microgamete surface. Targeted gene disruption of MiGS in a rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii 17XNL generated knockout parasites (?PyMiGS) that proliferate normally in erythrocytes and form male and female gametocytes. The number of MOB in male gametocyte cytoplasm is markedly reduced and the exflagellation of microgametes is impaired in ?PyMiGS. In addition, anti-PyMiGS antibody severely blocked the parasite development in the Anopheles stephensi mosquito. MiGS might thus be a potential novel transmission-blocking vaccine target candidate.
Project description:Efficient transmission of Plasmodium species between humans and Anopheles mosquitoes is a major contributor to the global burden of malaria. Gametocytogenesis, the process by which parasites switch from asexual replication within human erythrocytes to produce male and female gametocytes, is a critical step in malaria transmission and Plasmodium genetic diversity. Nothing is known about the pathways that regulate gametocytogenesis and only few of the current drugs that inhibit asexual replication are also capable of inhibiting gametocyte development and blocking malaria transmission. Here we provide genetic and pharmacological evidence indicating that the pathway for synthesis of phosphatidylcholine in Plasmodium falciparum membranes from host serine is essential for parasite gametocytogenesis and malaria transmission. Parasites lacking the phosphoethanolamine N-methyltransferase enzyme, which catalyzes the limiting step in this pathway, are severely altered in gametocyte development, are incapable of producing mature-stage gametocytes, and are not transmitted to mosquitoes. Chemical screening identified 11 inhibitors of phosphoethanolamine N-methyltransferase that block parasite intraerythrocytic asexual replication and gametocyte differentiation in the low micromolar range. Kinetic studies in vitro as well as functional complementation assays and lipid metabolic analyses in vivo on the most promising inhibitor NSC-158011 further demonstrated the specificity of inhibition. These studies set the stage for further optimization of NSC-158011 for development of a class of dual activity antimalarials to block both intraerythrocytic asexual replication and gametocytogenesis.
Project description:The emergence of resistance toward artemisinin combination therapies (ACTs) by the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has the potential to severely compromise malaria control. Therefore, the development of new artemisinins in combination with new drugs that impart activities toward both intraerythrocytic proliferative asexual and transmissible gametocyte stages, in particular, those of resistant parasites, is urgently required. We define artemisinins as oxidant drugs through their ability to oxidize reduced flavin cofactors of flavin disulfide reductases critical for maintaining redox homeostasis in the malaria parasite. Here we compare the activities of 10-amino artemisinin derivatives toward the asexual and gametocyte stages of P. falciparum parasites. Of these, artemisone and artemiside inhibited asexual and gametocyte stages, particularly stage V gametocytes, in the low-nanomolar range. Further, treatment of both early and late gametocyte stages with artemisone or artemiside combined with the pro-oxidant redox partner methylene blue displayed notable synergism. These data suggest that modulation of redox homeostasis is likely an important druggable process, particularly in gametocytes, and this finding thereby enhances the prospect of using combinations of oxidant and redox drugs for malaria control.
Project description:BACKGROUND:The intraerythrocytic development cycle (IDC) of the rodent malaria Plasmodium chabaudi is coordinated with host circadian rhythms. When this coordination is disrupted, parasites suffer a 50% reduction in both asexual stages and sexual stage gametocytes over the acute phase of infection. Reduced gametocyte density may not simply follow from a loss of asexuals because investment into gametocytes ("conversion rate") is a plastic trait; furthermore, the densities of both asexuals and gametocytes are highly dynamic during infection. Hence, the reasons for the reduction of gametocytes in infections that are out-of-synch with host circadian rhythms remain unclear. Here, two explanations are tested: first, whether out-of-synch parasites reduce their conversion rate to prioritize asexual replication via reproductive restraint; second, whether out-of-synch gametocytes experience elevated clearance by the host's circadian immune responses. METHODS:First, conversion rate data were analysed from a previous experiment comparing infections of P. chabaudi that were in-synch or 12 h out-of-synch with host circadian rhythms. Second, three new experiments examined whether the inflammatory cytokine TNF varies in its gametocytocidal efficacy according to host time-of-day and gametocyte age. RESULTS:There was no evidence that parasites reduce conversion or that their gametocytes become more vulnerable to TNF when out-of-synch with host circadian rhythms. CONCLUSIONS:The factors causing the reduction of gametocytes in out-of-synch infections remain mysterious. Candidates for future investigation include alternative rhythmic factors involved in innate immune responses and the rhythmicity in essential resources required for gametocyte development. Explaining why it matters for gametocytes to be synchronized to host circadian rhythms might suggest novel approaches to blocking transmission.
Project description:The phylum Apicomplexa encompasses numerous important human and animal disease-causing parasites, including the Plasmodium species, and Toxoplasma gondii, causative agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis, respectively. Apicomplexans proliferate by asexual replication and can also undergo sexual recombination. Most life cycle stages of the parasite lack flagella; these structures only appear on male gametes. Although male gametes (microgametes) assemble a typical 9+2 axoneme, the structure of the templating basal body is poorly defined. Moreover, the relationship between asexual stage centrioles and microgamete basal bodies remains unclear. While asexual stages of Plasmodium lack defined centriole structures, the asexual stages of Toxoplasma and closely related coccidian apicomplexans contain centrioles that consist of nine singlet microtubules and a central tubule. There are relatively few ultra-structural images of Toxoplasma microgametes, which only develop in cat intestinal epithelium. Only a subset of these include sections through the basal body: to date, none have unambiguously captured organization of the basal body structure. Moreover, it is unclear whether this basal body is derived from pre-existing asexual stage centrioles or is synthesized de novo. Basal bodies in Plasmodium microgametes are thought to be synthesized de novo, and their assembly remains ill-defined. Apicomplexan genomes harbor genes encoding δ- and ε-tubulin homologs, potentially enabling these parasites to assemble a typical triplet basal body structure. Moreover, the UNIMOD components (SAS6, SAS4/CPAP, and BLD10/CEP135) are conserved in these organisms. However, other widely conserved basal body and flagellar biogenesis elements are missing from apicomplexan genomes. These differences may indicate variations in flagellar biogenesis pathways and in basal body arrangement within the phylum. As apicomplexan basal bodies are distinct from their metazoan counterparts, it may be possible to selectively target parasite structures in order to inhibit microgamete motility which drives generation of genetic diversity in Toxoplasma and transmission for Plasmodium.
Project description:Clinical studies and mathematical models predict that, to achieve malaria elimination, combination therapies will need to incorporate drugs that block the transmission of Plasmodium falciparum sexual stage parasites to mosquito vectors. Efforts to measure the activity of existing antimalarials on intraerythrocytic sexual stage gametocytes and identify transmission-blocking agents have, until now, been hindered by a lack of quantitative assays. Here, we report an experimental system using P. falciparum lines that stably express gametocyte-specific GFP-luciferase reporters, which enable the assessment of dose- and time-dependent drug action on gametocyte maturation and transmission. These studies reveal activity of the first-line antimalarial dihydroartemisinin and the partner drugs lumefantrine and pyronaridine against early gametocyte stages, along with moderate inhibition of mature gametocyte transmission to Anopheles mosquitoes. The other partner agents monodesethyl-amodiaquine and piperaquine showed activity only against immature gametocytes. Our data also identify methylene blue as a potent inhibitor of gametocyte development across all stages. This thiazine dye almost fully abolishes P. falciparum transmission to mosquitoes at concentrations readily achievable in humans, highlighting the potential of this chemical class to reduce the spread of malaria.
Project description:Plasmodium gametocytes are sexual stages transmitted to female Anopheles mosquitoes. While Plasmodium parasites can be differentiated microscopically on Giemsa-stained blood smears, molecular methods are increasingly used because of their increased sensitivity. Molecular detection of gametocytes requires methods that discriminate between asexual and sexual stage parasites. Commonly tested gametocyte-specific mRNAs are pfs25 and pfs230 detected by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). However, detection of these unspliced mRNA targets requires preceding DNase treatment of nucleic acids to eliminate co-purified genomic DNA. If gametocyte-specific, spliced mRNAs could be identified, DNase treatment could be eliminated and one-step multiplexed molecular methods utilized.Expression data was used to identify highly-expressed mRNAs in mature gametocytes that were also low in antisense RNA expression in non-gametocyte stages. After testing numerous candidate mRNAs, the spliced female Pf3D7_0630000 mRNA was selected as a Plasmodium falciparum gametocyte-specific biomarker compatible with Plasmodium 18S rRNA RT-PCR. This mRNA was only detected in samples containing mature gametocytes and was absent in those containing only asexual stage parasites or uninfected human blood. PF3D7_0630000 RT-PCR detected gametocytes across a wide range of parasite densities in both spiked and clinical samples and agreed with pfs25 RT-PCR, the gold standard for RT-PCR-based gametocyte detection. PF3D7_0630000 multiplexed with Plasmodium 18S rRNA RT-PCR was more sensitive than other spliced mRNA targets for one-step RT-PCR gametocyte detection.Because the spliced target does not require DNase treatment, the PF3D7_0630000 assay can be multiplexed with Plasmodium 18S rRNA for direct one-step detection of gametocytes from whole human blood.
Project description:Plasmodium gametocytes are the sexual forms of the malaria parasite essential for transmission to mosquitoes. To better understand how gametocytes differ from asexual blood-stage parasites, we performed a systematic analysis of available 'omics data for P. falciparum and other Plasmodium species. 18 transcriptomic and proteomic data sets were evaluated for the presence of curated "gold standards" of 41 gametocyte-specific versus 46 non-gametocyte genes and integrated using Bayesian probabilities, resulting in gametocyte-specificity scores for all P. falciparum genes. To illustrate the utility of the gametocyte score, we explored newly predicted gametocyte-specific genes as potential biomarkers of gametocyte carriage and exposure. We analyzed the humoral immune response in field samples against 30 novel gametocyte-specific antigens and found five antigens to be differentially recognized by gametocyte carriers as compared to malaria-infected individuals without detectable gametocytes. We also validated the gametocyte-specificity of 15 identified gametocyte transcripts on culture material and samples from naturally infected individuals, resulting in eight transcripts that were >1000-fold higher expressed in gametocytes compared to asexual parasites and whose transcript abundance allowed gametocyte detection in naturally infected individuals. Our integrated genome-wide gametocyte-specificity scores provide a comprehensive resource to identify targets and monitor P. falciparum gametocytemia.
Project description:Transmission of Plasmodium parasites to the mosquito requires the formation and development of gametocytes. Studies in infected humans have shown that only the most mature forms of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes are present in circulation, whereas immature forms accumulate in the hematopoietic environment of the bone marrow. We used the rodent model Plasmodium berghei to study gametocyte behavior through time under physiological conditions. Intravital microscopy demonstrated preferential homing of early gametocyte forms across the intact vascular barrier of the bone marrow and the spleen early during infection and subsequent development in the extravascular environment. During the acute phase of infection, we observed vascular leakage resulting in further parasite accumulation in this environment. Mature gametocytes showed high deformability and were found entering and exiting the intact vascular barrier. We suggest that extravascular gametocyte localization and mobility are essential for gametocytogenesis and transmission of Plasmodium to the mosquito.
Project description:During the malaria infection, Plasmodium parasites invade the host’s red blood cells where they can differentiate into two different life forms. The majority will replicate asexually and infect new erythrocytes. A small percentage, however, will transform into gametocytes – a specialized sexual stage able to survive and develop when taken up by Anopheles mosquito. As the gametocytes ensure the parasite’s transmission to a new host, their generation is an attractive target for new antimalarial interventions. The molecular mechanisms controlling gametocytogenesis, however, remain largely unknown due to the technical challenges: the early gametocytes are morphologically indistinguishable from asexual parasites and present in very low numbers during the infection. Recently, AP2-G - a transcription factor from an apicomplexa-specific apiAP2 family – was described as indispensable for gametocyte commitment in both human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and rodent malaria model Plasmodium berghei. Therefore, we have decided to test whether the overexpression of this factor alone could increase gametocyte production and enable the investigation of uncharacterised, earliest stages of gametocyte development. To this end, we have engineered PBGAMi - a Plasmodium berghei line, in which all parasites were ap2-g deficient by default but able to overexpress it when induced with rapamycin. While the control parasites (PBGAMi R-), as expected, differentiated into asexual forms (schizonts) only, almost all rapamycin-treated parasites (PBGAMi R+) transformed into gametocytes. We used the generated line to perform RNA-seq analysis of the R- and R+ populations at different time points of their development and identify the changes arising between them, mapping the sequence of events leading to the formation of gametocytes. Overall design: A synchronised population of Plasmodium berghei PBGAMi parasites was either induced with rapamycin (which caused the ap2-g overexpression and gametocyte conversion) or allowed to develop asexually. Parasites from both groups were harvested at different time points post induction and RNA-seq was used to analyse their transcriptome
Project description:Gametocytes are essential for Plasmodium transmission, but little is known about the mechanisms that lead to their formation. Using piggyBac transposon-mediated insertional mutagenesis, we screened for parasites that no longer form mature gametocytes, which led to the isolation of 29 clones (insertional gametocyte-deficient mutants) that fail to form mature gametocytes. Additional analysis revealed 16 genes putatively responsible for the loss of gametocytogenesis, none of which has been previously implicated in gametocytogenesis. Transcriptional profiling and detection of an early stage gametocyte antigen determined that a subset of these mutants arrests development at stage I or in early stage II gametocytes, likely representing genes involved in gametocyte maturation. The remaining mutants seem to arrest before formation of stage I gametocytes and may represent genes involved in commitment to the gametocyte lineage.