Endoplasmic reticulum stress triggers gametocytogenesis in the malaria parasite [Cell Biology]

April 22nd, 2014 by Chaubey, S., Grover, M., Tatu, U.

Malaria parasite experiences significant amount of redox stress during its growth in human erythrocytes and heavily relies on secretory functions for pathogenesis. Most certainly the parasite is equipped with a machinery to tackle perturbations in the secretory pathway, like UPR pathway in higher eukaryotes. Our bioinformatics analysis revealed complete absence of genes involved in the canonical UPR pathway in Plasmodium falciparum. Accordingly, the parasite was unable to up-regulate ER chaperones or ERAD in response to DTT mediated ER stress. Global profiling of gene expression upon DTT treatment revealed a network of AP2 transcription factors and their targets being activated. The overall outcome was up-regulation of genes involved in protein export and sexual stage of the parasite life cycle culminating into gametocytogenesis. Our results suggest that the malaria parasite uses ER stress as a cue to switch to the transmissible sexual stages.