The Plasmodium falciparum sexual development transcriptome: a microarray analysis using ontology-based pattern identification

Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2005 Sep;143(1):67-79. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2005.05.007.


The sexual stages of malarial parasites are essential for the mosquito transmission of the disease and therefore are the focus of transmission-blocking drug and vaccine development. In order to better understand genes important to the sexual development process, the transcriptomes of high-purity stage I-V Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes were comprehensively profiled using a full-genome high-density oligonucleotide microarray. The interpretation of this transcriptional data was aided by applying a novel knowledge-based data-mining algorithm termed ontology-based pattern identification (OPI) using current information regarding known sexual stage genes as a guide. This analysis resulted in the identification of a sexual development cluster containing 246 genes, of which approximately 75% were hypothetical, exhibiting highly-correlated, gametocyte-specific expression patterns. Inspection of the upstream promoter regions of these 246 genes revealed putative cis-regulatory elements for sexual development transcriptional control mechanisms. Furthermore, OPI analysis was extended using current annotations provided by the Gene Ontology Consortium to identify 380 statistically significant clusters containing genes with expression patterns characteristic of various biological processes, cellular components, and molecular functions. Collectively, these results, available as part of a web-accessible OPI database (, shed light on the components of molecular mechanisms underlying parasite sexual development and other areas of malarial parasite biology.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Base Sequence
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling*
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Male
  • Multigene Family
  • Oligonucleotide Array Sequence Analysis*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / growth & development
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Sexual Maturation
  • Transcription, Genetic*


  • DNA, Protozoan