Migration through host cells activates Plasmodium sporozoites for infection

Nat Med. 2002 Nov;8(11):1318-22. doi: 10.1038/nm785. Epub 2002 Oct 15.


Plasmodium sporozoites, the infective stage of the malaria parasite transmitted by mosquitoes, migrate through several hepatocytes before infecting a final one. Migration through hepatocytes occurs by breaching their plasma membranes, and final infection takes place with the formation of a vacuole around the sporozoite. Once in the liver, sporozoites have already reached their target cells, making migration through hepatocytes prior to infection seem unnecessary. Here we show that this migration is required for infection of hepatocytes. Migration through host cells, but not passive contact with hepatocytes, induces the exocytosis of sporozoite apical organelles, a prerequisite for infection with formation of a vacuole. Sporozoite activation induced by migration through host cells is an essential step of Plasmodium life cycle.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line
  • Exocytosis
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Plasmodium / physiology*