Data mining of the transcriptome of Plasmodium falciparum: the pentose phosphate pathway and ancillary processes

Malar J. 2005 Mar 18;4:17. doi: 10.1186/1475-2875-4-17.


The general paradigm that emerges from the analysis of the transcriptome of the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum is that the expression clusters of genes that code for enzymes engaged in the same cellular function is coordinated. Here the consistency of this perception is examined by analysing specific pathways that metabolically-linked. The pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) is a fundamental element of cell biochemistry since it is the major pathway for the recycling of NADP+ to NADPH and for the production of ribose-5-phosphate that is needed for the synthesis of nucleotides. The function of PPP depends on the synthesis of NADP+ and thiamine pyrophosphate, a co-enzyme of the PPP enzyme transketolase. In this essay, the transcription of gene coding for enzymes involved in the PPP, thiamine and NAD(P)+ syntheses are analysed. The genes coding for two essential enzymes in these pathways, transaldolase and NAD+ kinase could not be found in the genome of P. falciparum. It is found that the transcription of the genes of each pathway is not always coordinated and there is usually a gene whose transcription sets the latest time for the full deployment of the pathway's activity. The activity of PPP seems to involve only the oxidative arm of PPP that is geared for maximal NADP+ reduction and ribose-5-phosphate production during the early stages of parasite development. The synthesis of thiamine diphosphate is predicted to occur much later than the expression of transketolase. Later in the parasite cycle, the non-oxidative arm of PPP that can use fructose-6-phosphate and glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate supplied by glycolysis, becomes fully deployed allowing to maximize the production of ribose-5-phosphate. These discrepancies require direct biochemical investigations to test the activities of the various enzymes in the developing parasite. Notably, several transcripts of PPP enzyme-coding genes display biphasic pattern of transcription unlike most transcripts that peak only once during the parasite cycle. The physiological meaning of this pattern requires further investigation.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Databases, Nucleic Acid
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • NAD / biosynthesis
  • NAD / genetics
  • NADP / biosynthesis
  • NADP / genetics
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway / genetics
  • Pentose Phosphate Pathway / physiology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphate / biosynthesis
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphate / genetics
  • Transcription, Genetic / physiology*


  • NAD
  • NADP
  • Thiamine Pyrophosphate