PfAP2-G ChIP-seq in stage I gametocytes derived via next cycle conversion (NCC) and same cycle conversion (SCC)
ABSTRACT: In the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the switch from asexual multiplication to sexual differentiation into gametocytes is essential for transmission to mosquitos. One of the key determinants of sexual commitment is the transcription factor PfAP2-G, which has been proposed to orchestrate this crucial cell fate decision by driving expression of gametocyte genes. Here we identify for the first time the direct targets of PfAP2-G and demonstrate that it dynamically binds hundreds of sites across the genome. We also identify major differences in PfAP2-G occupancy between gametocytes derived via next-cycle and same-cycle conversion, suggesting significant biological differences between these two pathways. By using a combination of ChIP-seq, transcriptomics, and CRISPR-Cas9, we are able to show definitively that PfAP2-G is a transcriptional activator of early gametocyte genes. Our data implicate PfAP2-G not just as a transcriptional activator of gametocyte genes, but also as a regulator of genes important for red blood cell invasion. Excitingly, we also demonstrate that PfAP2-G interacts with a second transcription factor to regulate transcription. These results shed new light on a critical part of the malaria parasite lifecycle by clarifying the role of PfAP2-G during gametocytogenesis. Overall design: ChIP was performed using an antibody against HA on the AP2-G-DD line (+ Shld1) in stage I gametocytes produced using either next cycle conversion (NCC) or same cycle conversion (SCC). There are two biological replicates for each of the two stages, giving a total of four samples. The input material served as the control.
Project description:In the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the switch from asexual multiplication to sexual differentiation into gametocytes is essential for transmission to mosquitos. The transcription factor PfAP2-G is a key determinant of sexual commitment that orchestrates this crucial cell fate decision. Here we identify the direct targets of PfAP2-G and demonstrate that it dynamically binds hundreds of sites across the genome. We find that PfAP2-G is a transcriptional activator of early gametocyte genes, and identify differences in PfAP2-G occupancy between gametocytes derived via next-cycle and same-cycle conversion. Our data implicate PfAP2-G not only as a transcriptional activator of gametocyte genes, but also as a potential regulator of genes important for red blood cell invasion. We also find that regulation by PfAP2-G requires interaction with a second transcription factor, PfAP2-I. These results clarify the functional role of PfAP2-G during sexual commitment and early gametocytogenesis.
Project description:Human to vector transmission of malaria requires that some blood-stage parasites abandon asexual growth and convert into non-replicating sexual forms called gametocytes. The initial steps of gametocytogenesis remain largely uncharacterized. Here, we study this part of the malaria life cycle in Plasmodium falciparum using PfAP2-G, the master regulator of sexual conversion, as a marker of commitment. We demonstrate the existence of PfAP2-G-positive sexually committed parasite stages that precede the previously known committed schizont stage. We also found that sexual conversion can occur by two different routes: the previously described route in which PfAP2-G-expressing parasites complete a replicative cycle as committed forms before converting into gametocytes upon re-invasion, or a direct route with conversion within the same cycle as initial PfAP2-G expression. The latter route is linked to early PfAP2-G expression in ring stages. Reanalysis of published single-cell RNA-sequencing (RNA-seq) data confirmed the presence of both routes. Consistent with these results, using plaque assays we observed that, in contrast to the prevailing model, many schizonts produced mixed plaques containing both asexual parasites and gametocytes. Altogether, our results reveal unexpected features of the initial steps of sexual development and extend the current view of this part of the malaria life cycle.
Project description:The life cycles of many parasites involve transitions between disparate host species, requiring these parasites to go through multiple developmental stages adapted to each of these specialized niches. Transmission of malaria parasites (Plasmodium spp.) from humans to the mosquito vector requires differentiation from asexual stages replicating within red blood cells into non-dividing male and female gametocytes. Although gametocytes were first described in 1880, our understanding of the molecular mechanisms involved in commitment to gametocyte formation is extremely limited, and disrupting this critical developmental transition remains a long-standing goal. Here we show that expression levels of the DNA-binding protein PfAP2-G correlate strongly with levels of gametocyte formation. Using independent forward and reverse genetics approaches, we demonstrate that PfAP2-G function is essential for parasite sexual differentiation. By combining genome-wide PfAP2-G cognate motif occurrence with global transcriptional changes resulting from PfAP2-G ablation, we identify early gametocyte genes as probable targets of PfAP2-G and show that their regulation by PfAP2-G is critical for their wild-type level expression. In the asexual blood-stage parasites pfap2-g appears to be among a set of epigenetically silenced loci prone to spontaneous activation. Stochastic activation presents a simple mechanism for a low baseline of gametocyte production. Overall, these findings identify PfAP2-G as a master regulator of sexual-stage development in malaria parasites and mark the first discovery of a transcriptional switch controlling a differentiation decision in protozoan parasites.
Project description:Malaria transmission is dependent on the formation of gametocytes in the human blood. The sexual conversion rate, the proportion of asexual parasites that convert into gametocytes at each multiplication cycle, is variable and reflects the relative parasite investment between transmission and maintaining the infection. The impact of environmental factors such as drugs on sexual conversion rates is not well understood. We developed a robust assay using gametocyte-reporter parasite lines to accurately measure the impact of drugs on sexual conversion rates, independently from their gametocytocidal activity. We found that exposure to subcurative doses of the frontline antimalarial drug dihydroartemisinin (DHA) at the trophozoite stage resulted in a ~ fourfold increase in sexual conversion. In contrast, no increase was observed when ring stages were exposed or in cultures in which sexual conversion was stimulated by choline depletion. Our results reveal a complex relationship between antimalarial drugs and sexual conversion, with potential public health implications.
Project description:Malaria transmission requires that some asexual parasites convert into sexual forms termed gametocytes. The initial stages of sexual development, including sexually committed schizonts and sexual rings, remain poorly characterized, mainly because they are morphologically identical to their asexual counterparts and only a small subset of parasites undergo sexual development. Here, we describe a system for controlled sexual conversion in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, based on conditional expression of the PfAP2-G transcription factor. Using this system, ~90 percent of the parasites converted into sexual forms upon induction, enabling the characterization of committed and early sexual stages without further purification. We characterized sexually committed schizonts and sexual rings at the transcriptomic and phenotypic levels, which revealed down-regulation of genes involved in solute transport upon sexual commitment, among other findings. The new inducible lines will facilitate the study of early sexual stages at additional levels, including multiomic characterization and drug susceptibility assays.
Project description:Gametocyte is the sole form of the <i>Plasmodium falciparum</i> which is transmissible to the mosquito vector. Here, we report that an Apicomplexan Apetala2 (ApiAP2) family transcription factor, PfAP2-G2 (Pf3D7_1408200), plays a role in the development of gametocytes in <i>P. falciparum</i> by regulating the expression of <i>PfMDV-1 (Pf3D7_1216500)</i>. Reverse transcriptase-quantitative PCR (RT-qPCR) analysis showed that <i>PfAP2-G2</i> was highly expressed in the ring stage. Indirect immunofluorescence assay showed nuclear localization of PfAP2-G2 in asexual stages. The knockout of <i>PfAP2-G2</i> led to a ~95% decrease in the number of mature gametocytes with a more substantial influence on the production and maturation of the male gametocytes, resulting in a higher female/male gametocyte ratio. To test the mechanism of this phenotype, RNA-seq and RT-qPCR showed that disruption of <i>PfAP2-G2</i> led to the down-regulation of male development gene-1 (<i>PfMDV-1</i>) in asexual stages. We further found that PfAP2-G2 was enriched at the transcriptional start site (TSS) of <i>PfMDV-1</i> by chromatin immunoprecipitation and qPCR assay in both ring stage and schizont stage, which demonstrated that <i>PfMDV-1</i> is one of the targets of PfAP2-G2. In addition, RT-qPCR also showed that PfAP2-G (Pf3D7_1222600), the master regulator for sexual commitment, was also down-regulated in the PfAP2-G2 knockout parasites in the schizont stage, but no change in the ring stage. This phenomenon suggested that PfAP2-G2 played a role at the asexual stage for the development of parasite gametocytes and warrants further investigations in regulatory pathways of PfAP2-G2.
Project description:The asexual forms of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum are adapted for chronic persistence in human red blood cells, continuously evading host immunity using epigenetically regulated antigenic variation of virulence-associated genes. Parasite survival on a population level also requires differentiation into sexual forms, an obligatory step for further human transmission. We reveal that the essential nuclear gene, P. falciparum histone deacetylase 2 (PfHda2), is a global silencer of virulence gene expression and controls the frequency of switching from the asexual cycle to sexual development. PfHda2 depletion leads to dysregulated expression of both virulence-associated var genes and PfAP2-g, a transcription factor controlling sexual conversion, and is accompanied by increases in gametocytogenesis. Mathematical modeling further indicates that PfHda2 has likely evolved to optimize the parasite's infectious period by achieving low frequencies of virulence gene expression switching and sexual conversion. This common regulation of cellular transcriptional programs mechanistically links parasite transmissibility and virulence.
Project description:In the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, the switch from asexual multiplication to sexual differentiation into gametocytes is essential for transmission to mosquitos. One of the key determinants of sexual commitment is the transcription factor PfAP2-G, which has been proposed to orchestrate this crucial cell fate decision by driving expression of gametocyte genes. We show conclusively that PfAP2-G is a transcriptional activator of gametocyte genes and identify the earliest known markers expressed during commitment. Remarkably, we also find that in sexually committed cells, PfAP2-G is associated with the promoters of genes important for red blood cell invasion and activates them through its interactions with a second transcription factor. We thus demonstrate an intriguing transcriptional link between the apparently opposing processes of red blood cell invasion and gametocytogenesis that is coordinated by the master regulator PfAP2-G. This finding has important implications for the development of new anti-malarial drugs that block the invasion of red blood cells by sexually committed cells, thereby preventing parasite transmission. Overall design: ChIP was performed on the AP2-G-DD line (+Shld1) at schizont, ring, and stage I gametocyte stages using an antibody against HA. There are two biological replicates for each of the three stages, giving a total of six samples. The input material served as the control.
Project description:During intra-erythrocytic development, late asexually replicating Plasmodium falciparum parasites sequester from peripheral circulation. This facilitates chronic infection and is linked to severe disease and organ-specific pathology including cerebral and placental malaria. Immature gametocytes - sexual stage precursor cells - likewise disappear from circulation. Recent work has demonstrated that these sexual stage parasites are located in the hematopoietic system of the bone marrow before mature gametocytes are released into the bloodstream to facilitate mosquito transmission. However, as sequestration occurs only in vivo and not during in vitro culture, the mechanisms by which it is regulated and enacted (particularly by the gametocyte stage) remain poorly understood.We generated the most comprehensive P. falciparum functional gene network to date by integrating global transcriptional data from a large set of asexual and sexual in vitro samples, patient-derived in vivo samples, and a new set of in vitro samples profiling sexual commitment. We defined more than 250 functional modules (clusters) of genes that are co-expressed primarily during the intra-erythrocytic parasite cycle, including 35 during sexual commitment and gametocyte development. Comparing the in vivo and in vitro datasets allowed us, for the first time, to map the time point of asexual parasite sequestration in patients to 22 hours post-invasion, confirming previous in vitro observations on the dynamics of host cell modification and cytoadherence. Moreover, we were able to define the properties of gametocyte sequestration, demonstrating the presence of two circulating gametocyte populations: gametocyte rings between 0 and approximately 30 hours post-invasion and mature gametocytes after around 7 days post-invasion.This study provides a bioinformatics resource for the functional elucidation of parasite life cycle dynamics and specifically demonstrates the presence of the gametocyte ring stages in circulation, adding significantly to our understanding of the dynamics of gametocyte sequestration in vivo.
Project description:Transmission represents a population bottleneck in the Plasmodium life cycle and a key intervention target of ongoing efforts to eradicate malaria. Sexual differentiation is essential for this process, as only sexual parasites, called gametocytes, are infective to the mosquito vector. Gametocyte production rates vary depending on environmental conditions, but external stimuli remain obscure. Here, we show that the host-derived lipid lysophosphatidylcholine (LysoPC) controls P. falciparum cell fate by repressing parasite sexual differentiation. We demonstrate that exogenous LysoPC drives biosynthesis of the essential membrane component phosphatidylcholine. LysoPC restriction induces a compensatory response, linking parasite metabolism to the activation of sexual-stage-specific transcription and gametocyte formation. Our results reveal that malaria parasites can sense and process host-derived physiological signals to regulate differentiation. These data close a critical knowledge gap in parasite biology and introduce a major component of the sexual differentiation pathway in Plasmodium that may provide new approaches for blocking malaria transmission.