After transmission by Anopheles mosquitoes, Plasmodium sporozoites travel to the liver, infect hepatocytes and rapidly develop as intra-hepatocytic liver stages (LS). Rodent models of malaria exhibit large differences in the magnitude of liver infection, both between parasite species and strains of mice. This has been mainly attributed to differences in innate immune responses and parasite infectivity. Here, we report that BALB/cByJ mice are more susceptible to Plasmodium yoelii pre-erythrocytic infection when compared to BALB/cJ mice. This difference occurs at the level of early hepatocyte infection but expression levels of reported host factors that are involved in infection do not correlate with susceptibility. Interestingly, BALB/cByJ hepatocytes are more frequently polyploid, thus their susceptibility converges on the previously observed preference of sporozoites to infect polyploid hepatocytes. Gene expression analysis demonstrates hepatocyte-specific differences in mRNA abundance for numerous genes between BALB/cByJ and BALB/cJ mice, some of which encode hepatocyte surface molecules. These data suggest that a yet unknown receptor for sporozoite infection, present at elevated levels on BALB/cByJ hepatocytes and also polyploid hepatocytes might facilitate Plasmodium liver infection.
Malaria remains one of the most prevalent and lethal human infectious diseases worldwide. A comprehensive characterization of antibody responses to blood stage malaria is essential to support the development of future vaccines, sero-diagnostic tests, and sero-surveillance methods. We constructed a proteome array containing 4441 recombinant proteins expressed by the blood stages of the two most common human malaria parasites, P. falciparum (Pf) and P. vivax (Pv), and used this array to screen sera of Papua New Guinea children infected with Pf, Pv, or both (Pf/Pv) that were either symptomatic (febrile), or asymptomatic but had parasitemia detectable via microscopy or PCR. We hypothesized that asymptomatic children would develop antigen-specific antibody profiles associated with antidisease immunity, as compared with symptomatic children. The sera from these children recognized hundreds of the arrayed recombinant Pf and Pv proteins. In general, responses in asymptomatic children were highest in those with high parasitemia, suggesting that antibody levels are associated with parasite burden. In contrast, symptomatic children carried fewer antibodies than asymptomatic children with infections detectable by microscopy, particularly in Pv and Pf/Pv groups, suggesting that antibody production may be impaired during symptomatic infections. We used machine-learning algorithms to investigate the relationship between antibody responses and symptoms, and we identified antibody responses to sets of Plasmodium proteins that could predict clinical status of the donors. Several of these antibody responses were identified by multiple comparisons, including those against members of the serine enriched repeat antigen family and merozoite protein 4. Interestingly, both P. falciparum serine enriched repeat antigen-5 and merozoite protein 4 have been previously investigated for use in vaccines. This machine learning approach, never previously applied to proteome arrays, can be used to generate a list of potential seroprotective and/or diagnostic antigens candidates that can be further evaluated in longitudinal studies.
The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum and related organisms possess a relict plastid known as the apicoplast. Apicoplast protein synthesis is a validated drug target in malaria because antibiotics that inhibit translation in prokaryotes also inhibit apicoplast protein synthesis and are sometimes used for malaria prophylaxis or treatment. We identified components of an indirect aminoacylation pathway for Gln-tRNA(Gln) biosynthesis in Plasmodium that we hypothesized would be essential for apicoplast protein synthesis. Here, we report our characterization of the first enzyme in this pathway, the apicoplast glutamyl-tRNA synthetase (GluRS). We expressed the recombinant P. falciparum enzyme in Escherichia coli, showed that it is nondiscriminating because it glutamylates both apicoplast tRNA(Glu) and tRNA(Gln), determined its kinetic parameters, and demonstrated its inhibition by a known bacterial GluRS inhibitor. We also localized the Plasmodium berghei ortholog to the apicoplast in blood stage parasites but could not delete the PbGluRS gene. These data show that Gln-tRNA(Gln) biosynthesis in the Plasmodium apicoplast proceeds via an essential indirect aminoacylation pathway that is reminiscent of bacteria and plastids.
Vaccination with a single dose of genetically attenuated malaria parasites can induce sterile protection against sporozoite challenge in the rodent Plasmodium yoelii model. Protection is dependent on CD8(+) T cells, involves perforin and gamma interferon (IFN-?), and is correlated with the expansion of effector memory CD8(+) T cells in the liver. Here, we have further characterized vaccine-induced changes in the CD8(+) T cell phenotype and demonstrated significant upregulation of CD11c on CD3(+) CD8b(+) T cells in the liver, spleen, and peripheral blood. CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells are predominantly CD11a(hi) CD44(hi) CD62L(-), indicative of antigen-experienced effector cells. Following in vitro restimulation with malaria-infected hepatocytes, CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells expressed inflammatory cytokines and cytotoxicity markers, including IFN-?, tumor necrosis factor alpha (TNF-?), interleukin-2 (IL-2), perforin, and CD107a. CD11c(-) CD8(+) T cells, on the other hand, expressed negligible amounts of all inflammatory cytokines and cytotoxicity markers tested, indicating that CD11c marks multifunctional effector CD8(+) T cells. Coculture of CD11c(+), but not CD11c(-), CD8(+) T cells with sporozoite-infected primary hepatocytes significantly inhibited liver-stage parasite development. Tetramer staining for the immunodominant circumsporozoite protein (CSP)-specific CD8(+) T cell epitope demonstrated that approximately two-thirds of CSP-specific cells expressed CD11c at the peak of the CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cell response, but CD11c expression was lost as the CD8(+) T cells entered the memory phase. Further analyses showed that CD11c(+) CD8(+) T cells are primarily KLRG1(+) CD127(-) terminal effectors, whereas all KLRG1(-) CD127(+) memory precursor effector cells are CD11c(-) CD8(+) T cells. Together, these results suggest that CD11c marks a subset of highly inflammatory, short-lived, antigen-specific effector cells, which may play an important role in eliminating infected hepatocytes.
Splicing of mRNA is an ancient and evolutionarily conserved process in eukaryotic organisms, but intron-exon structures vary. Plasmodium falciparum has an extreme AT nucleotide bias (>80%), providing a unique opportunity to investigate how evolutionary forces have acted on intron structures. In this study, we developed an in vivo luciferase reporter splicing assay and employed it in combination with lariat isolation and sequencing to characterize 5 and 3 splicing requirements and experimentally determine the intron branch point in P. falciparum. This analysis indicates that P. falciparum mRNAs have canonical 5 and 3 splice sites. However, the 5 consensus motif is weakly conserved and tolerates nucleotide substitution, including the fifth nucleotide in the intron, which is more typically a G nucleotide in most eukaryotes. In comparison, the 3 splice site has a strong eukaryotic consensus sequence and adjacent polypyrimidine tract. In four different P. falciparum pre-mRNAs, multiple branch points per intron were detected, with some at U instead of the typical A residue. A weak branch point consensus was detected among 18 identified branch points. This analysis indicates that P. falciparum retains many consensus eukaryotic splice site features, despite having an extreme codon bias, and possesses flexibility in branch point nucleophilic attack.
Perkinsus marinus, a protozoan parasite of the eastern oyster Crassostrea virginica, has devastated natural and farmed oyster populations along the Atlantic and Gulf coasts of the United States. It is classified as a member of the Perkinsozoa, a recently established phylum considered close to the ancestor of ciliates, dinoflagellates, and apicomplexans, and a key taxon for understanding unique adaptations (e.g. parasitism) within the Alveolata. Despite intense parasite pressure, no disease-resistant oysters have been identified and no effective therapies have been developed to date.
TriTrypDB (http://tritrypdb.org) is an integrated database providing access to genome-scale datasets for kinetoplastid parasites, and supporting a variety of complex queries driven by research and development needs. TriTrypDB is a collaborative project, utilizing the GUS/WDK computational infrastructure developed by the Eukaryotic Pathogen Bioinformatics Resource Center (EuPathDB.org) to integrate genome annotation and analyses from GeneDB and elsewhere with a wide variety of functional genomics datasets made available by members of the global research community, often pre-publication. Currently, TriTrypDB integrates datasets from Leishmania braziliensis, L. infantum, L. major, L. tarentolae, Trypanosoma brucei and T. cruzi. Users may examine individual genes or chromosomal spans in their genomic context, including syntenic alignments with other kinetoplastid organisms. Data within TriTrypDB can be interrogated utilizing a sophisticated search strategy system that enables a user to construct complex queries combining multiple data types. All search strategies are stored, allowing future access and integrated searches. User Comments may be added to any gene page, enhancing available annotation; such comments become immediately searchable via the text search, and are forwarded to curators for incorporation into the reference annotation when appropriate.
While most Ascomycetes tend to associate principally with plants, the dimorphic fungi Coccidioides immitis and Coccidioides posadasii are primary pathogens of immunocompetent mammals, including humans. Infection results from environmental exposure to Coccidiodies, which is believed to grow as a soil saprophyte in arid deserts. To investigate hypotheses about the life history and evolution of Coccidioides, the genomes of several Onygenales, including C. immitis and C. posadasii; a close, nonpathogenic relative, Uncinocarpus reesii; and a more diverged pathogenic fungus, Histoplasma capsulatum, were sequenced and compared with those of 13 more distantly related Ascomycetes. This analysis identified increases and decreases in gene family size associated with a host/substrate shift from plants to animals in the Onygenales. In addition, comparison among Onygenales genomes revealed evolutionary changes in Coccidioides that may underlie its infectious phenotype, the identification of which may facilitate improved treatment and prevention of coccidioidomycosis. Overall, the results suggest that Coccidioides species are not soil saprophytes, but that they have evolved to remain associated with their dead animal hosts in soil, and that Coccidioides metabolism genes, membrane-related proteins, and putatively antigenic compounds have evolved in response to interaction with an animal host.
We sequenced the genome of Theileria orientalis, a tick-borne apicomplexan protozoan parasite of cattle. The focus of this study was a comparative genome analysis of T. orientalis relative to other highly pathogenic Theileria species, T. parva and T. annulata. T. parva and T. annulata induce transformation of infected cells of lymphocyte or macrophage/monocyte lineages; in contrast, T. orientalis does not induce uncontrolled proliferation of infected leukocytes and multiplies predominantly within infected erythrocytes. While synteny across homologous chromosomes of the three Theileria species was found to be well conserved overall, subtelomeric structures were found to differ substantially, as T. orientalis lacks the large tandemly arrayed subtelomere-encoded variable secreted protein-encoding gene family. Moreover, expansion of particular gene families by gene duplication was found in the genomes of the two transforming Theileria species, most notably, the TashAT/TpHN and Tar/Tpr gene families. Gene families that are present only in T. parva and T. annulata and not in T. orientalis, Babesia bovis, or Plasmodium were also identified. Identification of differences between the genome sequences of Theileria species with different abilities to transform and immortalize bovine leukocytes will provide insight into proteins and mechanisms that have evolved to induce and regulate this process. The T. orientalis genome database is available at http://totdb.czc.hokudai.ac.jp/.
The development of pre-erythrocytic Plasmodium vivax vaccines is hindered by the lack of in vitro culture systems or experimental rodent models. To help bypass these roadblocks, we exploited the fact that naturally exposed Fy- individuals who lack the Duffy blood antigen (Fy) receptor are less likely to develop blood-stage infections; therefore, they preferentially develop immune responses to pre-erythrocytic-stage parasites, whereas Fy+ individuals experience both liver- and blood-stage infections and develop immune responses to both pre-erythrocytic and erythrocytic parasites. We screened 60 endemic sera from P. vivax-exposed Fy+ or Fy- donors against a protein microarray containing 91 P. vivax proteins with P. falciparum orthologs that were up-regulated in sporozoites. Antibodies against 10 P. vivax antigens were identified in sera from P. vivax-exposed individuals but not unexposed controls. This technology has promising implications in the discovery of potential vaccine candidates against P. vivax malaria.
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