A high parasite density environment induces transcriptional changes and cell death in Plasmodium falciparum blood stages

Evelyn S. Chou, Sabia Z. Abidi, Marian Teye, Aleksandra Leliwa-Sytek, Thomas S. Rask, Simon A. Cobbold, Gerry Q. Tonkin-Hill, Krishanthi S. Subramaniam, Anna E. Sexton, Darren J. Creek, Johanna P. Daily, Michael F. Duffy, Karen P. Day

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Transient regulation of Plasmodium numbers below the density that induces fever has been observed in chronic malaria infections in humans. This species transcending control cannot be explained by immunity alone. Using an in vitro system we have observed density dependent regulation of malaria population size as a mechanism to possibly explain these in vivo observations. Specifically, Plasmodium falciparum blood stages from a high but not low-density environment exhibited unique phenotypic changes during the late trophozoite (LT) and schizont stages of the intraerythrocytic cycle. These included in order of appearance: failure of schizonts to mature and merozoites to replicate, apoptotic-like morphological changes including shrinking, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, and blebbing with eventual release of aberrant parasites from infected erythrocytes. This unique death phenotype was triggered in a stage-specific manner by sensing of a high-density culture environment. Conditions of glucose starvation, nutrient depletion, and high lactate could not induce the phenotype. A high-density culture environment induced rapid global changes in the parasite transcriptome including differential expression of genes involved in cell remodeling, clonal antigenic variation, metabolism, and cell death pathways including an apoptosis-associated metacaspase gene. This transcriptional profile was also characterized by concomitant expression of asexual and sexual stage-specific genes. The data show strong evidence to support our hypothesis that density sensing exists in P. falciparum. They indicate that an apoptotic-like mechanism may play a role in P. falciparum density regulation, which, as in yeast, has features quite distinguishable from mammalian apoptosis. Database: Gene expression data are available in the GEO databases under the accession number GSE91188.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)848-870
Number of pages23
JournalFEBS Journal
Volume285
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2018

Keywords

  • Plasmodium falciparum
  • density
  • microarray
  • stress response
  • transcription

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology

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    Chou, E. S., Abidi, S. Z., Teye, M., Leliwa-Sytek, A., Rask, T. S., Cobbold, S. A., Tonkin-Hill, G. Q., Subramaniam, K. S., Sexton, A. E., Creek, D. J., Daily, J. P., Duffy, M. F., & Day, K. P. (2018). A high parasite density environment induces transcriptional changes and cell death in Plasmodium falciparum blood stages. FEBS Journal, 285(5), 848-870. https://doi.org/10.1111/febs.14370