A Plasmodium cysteine protease required for efficient transition from the liver infection stage.
ABSTRACT: The transitions between developmental stages are critical points in the Plasmodium life cycle. The development of Plasmodium in the livers of their mammalian hosts bridges malaria transmission and the onset of clinical symptoms elicited by red blood cell infection. The egress of Plasmodium parasites from the liver must be a carefully orchestrated process to ensure a successful switch to the blood stage of infection. Cysteine protease activity is known to be required for liver-stage Plasmodium egress, but the crucial cysteine protease(s) remained unidentified. Here, we characterize a member of the papain-like cysteine protease family, Plasmodium berghei serine repeat antigen 4 (PbSERA4), that is required for efficient initiation of blood-stage infection. Through the generation PbSERA4-specific antisera and the creation of transgenic parasites expressing fluorescently tagged protein, we show that PbSERA4 is expressed and proteolytically processed in the liver and blood stages of infection. Targeted disruption of PbSERA4 results in viable and virulent blood-stage parasites. However, upon transmission from mosquitoes to mice, Pbsera4(-) parasites displayed a reduced capacity to initiate a new round of asexual blood-stage replication. Our results from cultured cells indicate that this defect results from an inability of the PbSERA4-deficient parasites to egress efficiently from infected cells at the culmination of liver-stage development. Protection against infection with wildtype P. berghei could be generated in animals in which Pbsera4(-) parasites failed to establish infection. Our findings confirm that liver-stage merozoite release is an active process and demonstrate that this parasite-encoded cysteine protease contributes to parasite escape from the liver.
Project description:The Plasmodium life cycle is a sequence of alternating invasive and replicative stages within the vertebrate and invertebrate hosts. How malarial parasites exit their host cells after completion of reproduction remains largely unsolved. Inhibitor studies indicated a role of Plasmodium cysteine proteases in merozoite release from host erythrocytes. To validate a vital function of malarial cysteine proteases in active parasite egress, we searched for target genes that can be analyzed functionally by reverse genetics. Herein, we describe a complete arrest of Plasmodium sporozoite egress from Anopheles midgut oocysts by targeted disruption of a stage-specific cysteine protease. Our findings show that sporozoites exit oocysts by parasite-dependent proteolysis rather than by passive oocyst rupture resulting from parasite growth. We provide genetic proof that malarial cysteine proteases are necessary for egress of invasive stages from their intracellular compartment and propose that similar cysteine protease-dependent mechanisms occur during egress from liver-stage and blood-stage schizonts.
Project description:Proteases have been implicated in a variety of developmental processes during the malaria parasite lifecycle. In particular, invasion and egress of the parasite from the infected hepatocyte and erythrocyte, critically depend on protease activity. Although falcipain-1 was the first cysteine protease to be characterized in P. falciparum, its role in the lifecycle of the parasite has been the subject of some controversy. While an inhibitor of falcipain-1 blocked erythrocyte invasion by merozoites, two independent studies showed that falcipain-1 disruption did not affect growth of blood stage parasites. To shed light on the role of this protease over the entire Plasmodium lifecycle, we disrupted berghepain-1, its ortholog in the rodent parasite P. berghei. We found that this mutant parasite displays a pronounced delay in blood stage infection after inoculation of sporozoites. Experiments designed to pinpoint the defect of berghepain-1 knockout parasites found that it was not due to alterations in gliding motility, hepatocyte invasion or liver stage development and that injection of berghepain-1 knockout merosomes replicated the phenotype of delayed blood stage growth after sporozoite inoculation. We identified an additional role for berghepain-1 in preparing blood stage merozoites for infection of erythrocytes and observed that berghepain-1 knockout parasites exhibit a reticulocyte restriction, suggesting that berghepain-1 activity broadens the erythrocyte repertoire of the parasite. The lack of berghepain-1 expression resulted in a greater reduction in erythrocyte infectivity in hepatocyte-derived merozoites than it did in erythrocyte-derived merozoites. These observations indicate a role for berghepain-1 in processing ligands important for merozoite infectivity and provide evidence supporting the notion that hepatic and erythrocytic merozoites, though structurally similar, are not identical.
Project description:Plasmodium parasites express a potent inhibitor of cysteine proteases (ICP) throughout their life cycle. To analyze the role of ICP in different life cycle stages, we generated a stage-specific knockout of the Plasmodium berghei ICP (PbICP). Excision of the pbicb gene occurred in infective sporozoites and resulted in impaired sporozoite invasion of hepatocytes, despite residual PbICP protein being detectable in sporozoites. The vast majority of these parasites invading a cultured hepatocyte cell line did not develop to mature liver stages, but the few that successfully developed hepatic merozoites were able to initiate a blood stage infection in mice. These blood stage parasites, now completely lacking PbICP, exhibited an attenuated phenotype but were able to infect mosquitoes and develop to the oocyst stage. However, PbICP-negative sporozoites liberated from oocysts exhibited defective motility and invaded mosquito salivary glands in low numbers. They were also unable to invade hepatocytes, confirming that control of cysteine protease activity is of critical importance for sporozoites. Importantly, transfection of PbICP-knockout parasites with a pbicp-gfp construct fully reversed these defects. Taken together, in P. berghei this inhibitor of the ICP family is essential for sporozoite motility but also appears to play a role during parasite development in hepatocytes and erythrocytes.
Project description:The Plasmodium Cysteine Repeat Modular Proteins (PCRMP) are a family of four conserved proteins of malaria parasites, that contain a number of motifs implicated in host-parasite interactions. Analysis of mutants of the rodent parasite Plasmodium berghei lacking expression of PCRMP1 or 2 showed that these proteins are essential for targeting of P. berghei sporozoites to the mosquito salivary gland and, hence, for transmission from the mosquito to the mouse.In this work, the role of the remaining PCRMP family members, PCRMP3 and 4, has been investigated throughout the Plasmodium life cycle by generation and analysis of P. berghei gene deletion mutants, ?pcrmp3 and ?pcrmp4. The role of PCRMP members during the transmission and hepatic stages of the Plasmodium lifecycle has been evaluated by light- and electron microscopy and by analysis of liver stage development in HEPG2 cells in vitro and by infecting mice with mutant sporozoites. In addition, mice were immunized with live ?pcrmp3 and ?pcrmp4 sporozoites to evaluate their immunization potential as a genetically-attenuated parasite-based vaccine.Disruption of pcrmp3 and pcrmp4 in P. berghei revealed that they are also essential for transmission of the parasite through the mosquito vector, although acting in a distinct way to pbcrmp1 and 2. Mutants lacking expression of PCRMP3 or PCRMP4 show normal blood stage development and oocyst formation in the mosquito and develop into morphologically normal sporozoites, but these have a defect in egress from oocysts and do not enter the salivary glands. Sporozoites extracted from oocysts perform gliding motility and invade and infect hepatocytes but do not undergo further development and proliferation. Furthermore, the study shows that immunization with ?crmp3 and ?crmp4 sporozoites does not confer protective immunity upon subsequent challenge.PCRMP3 and 4 play multiple roles during the Plasmodium life cycle; they are essential for the establishment of sporozoite infection in the mosquito salivary gland, and subsequently for development in hepatocytes. However, although ?pcrmp3 and ?pcrmp4 parasites are completely growth-impaired in the liver, immunization with live sporozoites does not induce the protective immune responses that have been shown for other genetically-attenuated parasites.
Project description:Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) blood stages express falstatin, an inhibitor of cysteine proteases (ICP), which is implicated in regulating proteolysis during red blood cell infection. Recent data using the Plasmodium berghei rodent malaria model suggested an additional role for ICP in the infection of hepatocytes by sporozoites and during liver-stage development. Here we further characterize the role of ICP?in vivo during infection with Plasmodium yoelii (Py) and Pf. We found that Py-ICP was refractory to targeted gene deletion indicating an essential function during asexual blood-stage replication, but significant downregulation of ICP using a regulated system did not impact blood-stage growth. Py-ICP localized to vesicles within the asexual blood-stage parasite cytoplasm, as well as the parasitophorous vacuole, and was exported to dynamic exomembrane structures in the infected RBC. In sporozoites, expression was observed in rhoptries, in addition to intracellular vesicles distinct from TRAP containing micronemes. During liver-stage development, Py-ICP was confined to the parasite compartment until the final phase of liver-stage development when, after parasitophorous vacuolemembrane breakdown, it was released into the infected hepatocyte. Finally, we identified the cysteine protease yoelipain-2 as a binding partner of Py-ICP during blood-stage infection. These data show that ICP may be important in regulating proteolytic processes during blood-stage development, and is likely playing a role in liver stage-hepatocyte interactions at the time of exoerythrocytic merozoite release.
Project description:The coordinated exit of intracellular pathogens from host cells is a process critical to the success and spread of an infection. While phospholipases have been shown to play important roles in bacteria host cell egress and virulence, their role in the release of intracellular eukaryotic parasites is largely unknown. We examined a malaria parasite protein with phospholipase activity and found it to be involved in hepatocyte egress. In hepatocytes, Plasmodium parasites are surrounded by a parasitophorous vacuole membrane (PVM), which must be disrupted before parasites are released into the blood. However, on a molecular basis, little is known about how the PVM is ruptured. We show that Plasmodium berghei phospholipase, PbPL, localizes to the PVM in infected hepatocytes. We provide evidence that parasites lacking PbPL undergo completely normal liver stage development until merozoites are produced but have a defect in egress from host hepatocytes. To investigate this further, we established a live-cell imaging-based assay, which enabled us to study the temporal dynamics of PVM rupture on a quantitative basis. Using this assay we could show that PbPL-deficient parasites exhibit impaired PVM rupture, resulting in delayed parasite egress. A wild-type phenotype could be re-established by gene complementation, demonstrating the specificity of the PbPL deletion phenotype. In conclusion, we have identified for the first time a Plasmodium phospholipase that is important for PVM rupture and in turn for parasite exit from the infected hepatocyte and therefore established a key role of a parasite phospholipase in egress.
Project description:Plasmodium parasites must control cysteine protease activity that is critical for hepatocyte invasion by sporozoites, liver stage development, host cell survival and merozoite liberation. Here we show that exoerythrocytic P. berghei parasites express a potent cysteine protease inhibitor (PbICP, P. berghei inhibitor of cysteine proteases). We provide evidence that it has an important function in sporozoite invasion and is capable of blocking hepatocyte cell death. Pre-incubation with specific anti-PbICP antiserum significantly decreased the ability of sporozoites to infect hepatocytes and expression of PbICP in mammalian cells protects them against peroxide- and camptothecin-induced cell death. PbICP is secreted by sporozoites prior to and after hepatocyte invasion, localizes to the parasitophorous vacuole as well as to the parasite cytoplasm in the schizont stage and is released into the host cell cytoplasm at the end of the liver stage. Like its homolog falstatin/PfICP in P. falciparum, PbICP consists of a classical N-terminal signal peptide, a long N-terminal extension region and a chagasin-like C-terminal domain. In exoerythrocytic parasites, PbICP is posttranslationally processed, leading to liberation of the C-terminal chagasin-like domain. Biochemical analysis has revealed that both full-length PbICP and the truncated C-terminal domain are very potent inhibitors of cathepsin L-like host and parasite cysteine proteases. The results presented in this study suggest that the inhibitor plays an important role in sporozoite invasion of host cells and in parasite survival during liver stage development by inhibiting host cell proteases involved in programmed cell death.
Project description:Plasmodium parasites undergo an obligatory and asymptomatic developmental stage within the liver before infecting red blood cells to cause malaria. The hijacked host pathways critical to parasite infection during this hepatic phase remain poorly understood. Here, we implemented a forward genetic screen to identify over 100 host factors within the human druggable genome that are critical to P. berghei infection in hepatoma cells. Notably, we found knockdown of genes involved in protein trafficking pathways to be detrimental to parasite infection. The disruption of protein trafficking modulators, including COPB2 and GGA1, decreases P. berghei parasite size, and an immunofluorescence study suggests that these proteins are recruited to the Plasmodium parasitophorous vacuole in infected hepatocytes. These findings reveal that various host intracellular protein trafficking pathways are subverted by Plasmodium parasites during the liver stage and provide new insights into their manipulation for growth and development.
Project description:Transmission of the malaria parasite to its vertebrate host involves an obligatory exoerythrocytic stage in which extensive asexual replication of the parasite takes place in infected hepatocytes. The resulting liver schizont undergoes segmentation to produce thousands of daughter merozoites. These are released to initiate the blood stage life cycle, which causes all the pathology associated with the disease. Whilst elements of liver stage merozoite biology are similar to those in the much better-studied blood stage merozoites, little is known of the molecular players involved in liver stage merozoite production. To facilitate the study of liver stage biology we developed a strategy for the rapid production of complex conditional alleles by recombinase mediated engineering in Escherichia coli, which we used in combination with existing Plasmodium berghei deleter lines expressing Flp recombinase to study subtilisin-like protease 1 (SUB1), a conserved Plasmodium serine protease previously implicated in blood stage merozoite maturation and egress. We demonstrate that SUB1 is not required for the early stages of intrahepatic growth, but is essential for complete development of the liver stage schizont and for production of hepatic merozoites. Our results indicate that inhibitors of SUB1 could be used in prophylactic approaches to control or block the clinically silent pre-erythrocytic stage of the malaria parasite life cycle.
Project description:Plasmodium parasites lacking plasmepsin 4 (PM4), an aspartic protease that functions in the lysosomal compartment and contributes to hemoglobin digestion, have only a modest decrease in the asexual blood-stage growth rate; however, PM4 deficiency in the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei results in significantly less virulence than that for the parental parasite. P. berghei Deltapm4 parasites failed to induce experimental cerebral malaria (ECM) in ECM-susceptible mice, and ECM-resistant mice were able to clear infections. Furthermore, after a single infection, all convalescent mice were protected against subsequent parasite challenge for at least 1 year. Real-time in vivo parasite imaging and splenectomy experiments demonstrated that protective immunity acted through antibody-mediated parasite clearance in the spleen. This work demonstrates, for the first time, that a single Plasmodium gene disruption can generate virulence-attenuated parasites that do not induce cerebral complications and, moreover, are able to stimulate strong protective immunity against subsequent challenge with wild-type parasites. Parasite blood-stage attenuation should help identify protective immune responses against malaria, unravel parasite-derived factors involved in malarial pathologies, such as cerebral malaria, and potentially pave the way for blood-stage whole organism vaccines.