The Plasmodium sporozoite journey: a rite of passage

Trends Parasitol. 2003 Mar;19(3):135-43. doi: 10.1016/s1471-4922(03)00007-2.


Sporozoites are the most versatile of the invasive stages of the Plasmodium life cycle. During their passage within the mosquito vector and the vertebrate host, sporozoites display diverse behaviors, including gliding locomotion and invasion of, migration through and egress from target cells. At the end of the journey, sporozoites invade hepatocytes and transform into exoerythrocytic stages, marking the transition from the pre-erythrocytic to the erythrocytic part of the life cycle. This article discusses recent work, mostly done with rodent malaria parasites, that has contributed to a better understanding of the sporozoites' complex biology and which has opened up new avenues for future sporozoite research.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Hepatocytes / parasitology
  • Host-Parasite Interactions
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages
  • Locomotion
  • Mammals / parasitology
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Plasmodium / cytology
  • Plasmodium / growth & development*
  • Plasmodium / pathogenicity*
  • Protozoan Proteins / metabolism
  • Salivary Glands / parasitology
  • Salivary Glands / ultrastructure
  • Sporozoites / cytology
  • Sporozoites / growth & development
  • Sporozoites / pathogenicity


  • Protozoan Proteins
  • circumsporozoite protein, Protozoan
  • thrombospondin-related adhesive protein, protozoan