Alpha-tubulin II is a male-specific protein in Plasmodium falciparum

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1992 Dec;56(2):239-50. doi: 10.1016/0166-6851(92)90173-h.


The tubulin gene family in Plasmodium falciparum consists of one beta-tubulin and two alpha-tubulin genes (alpha-tubulin I and II). We present here data indicating that alpha-tubulin II is expressed only in male sexual stage parasites. An IgM mAb, 5E7, specifically reacted with stage III (day 4-5) through mature (day 10-11) male gametocytes and with emerging, exflagellating, or freely moving male gametes. No reactivity was detected in female gametocytes, female gametes, sporozoites, or asexual parasites. mAb 5E7 also specifically recognized male gametes of the avian parasite, Plasmodium gallinaceum, and immunoblotted a 50 kDa protein in extracts of male gametes from both species. This 50 kDa antigen was localized by immunoelectron microscopy to axonemes of male gametes in a pattern similar to that obtained with anti-alpha- and anti-beta-tubulin antibodies. Furthermore, mAb 5E7 specifically reacted with recombinant alpha-tubulin II protein obtained using the PCR-amplified alpha-tubulin II gene from a gametocyte-specific cDNA library. The sex-specific expression of alpha-tubulin II and its localization to axoneme of the male parasite suggest a role for this molecule in the morphologic changes that occur during exflagellation and in the motility of the parasite. alpha-Tubulin II and mAb 5E7 may prove useful tools in studies of the biology of sexual stage differentiation and development in P. falciparum in addition to the general understanding of post-translational modifications of tubulin isoforms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology
  • Antibody Specificity
  • Base Sequence
  • Flagella / chemistry*
  • Flagella / immunology
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Immunoelectron
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Plasmodium falciparum / chemistry*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Plasmodium falciparum / immunology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / ultrastructure
  • Plasmodium gallinaceum / chemistry
  • Plasmodium gallinaceum / immunology
  • Plasmodium gallinaceum / ultrastructure
  • Tubulin / immunology
  • Tubulin / isolation & purification*


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Tubulin