The transcriptome of circulating sexually committed Plasmodium falciparum ring stage parasites forecasts malaria transmission potential

Surendra K. Prajapati*, Ruth Ayanful-Torgby, Zuleima Pava, Michelle C. Barbeau, Festus K. Acquah, Elizabeth Cudjoe, Courage Kakaney, Jones A. Amponsah, Evans Obboh, Anwar E. Ahmed, Benjamin K. Abuaku, James S. McCarthy, Linda E. Amoah, Kim C. Williamson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations

Abstract

Malaria is spread by the transmission of sexual stage parasites, called gametocytes. However, with Plasmodium falciparum, gametocytes can only be detected in peripheral blood when they are mature and transmissible to a mosquito, which complicates control efforts. Here, we identify the set of genes overexpressed in patient blood samples with high levels of gametocyte-committed ring stage parasites. Expression of all 18 genes is regulated by transcription factor AP2-G, which is required for gametocytogenesis. We select three genes, not expressed in mature gametocytes, to develop as biomarkers. All three biomarkers we validate in vitro using 6 different parasite lines and develop an algorithm that predicts gametocyte production in ex vivo samples and volunteer infection studies. The biomarkers are also sensitive enough to monitor gametocyte production in asymptomatic P. falciparum carriers allowing early detection and treatment of infectious reservoirs, as well as the in vivo analysis of factors that modulate sexual conversion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6159
JournalNature Communications
Volume11
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2020
Externally publishedYes

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