Redefining the role of de novo fatty acid synthesis in Plasmodium parasites

Trends Parasitol. 2009 Dec;25(12):545-50. doi: 10.1016/ Epub 2009 Oct 12.


Fatty acids are essential components of membranes, and are also involved in cell signalling. Plasmodium, the parasite that causes malaria, scavenges fatty acids from its hosts. However, Plasmodium also possesses enzymes for a prokaryotic-like de novo fatty acid synthesis pathway, which resides in the apicoplast. Recent research has demonstrated that Plasmodium parasites depend on de novo fatty acid synthesis only for liver-stage development. This finding demonstrates that basic anabolic functions of Plasmodium parasites are not necessary for the growth and replication of every life cycle stage. We discuss the role of fatty acid metabolism in Plasmodium and why we believe that de novo fatty acid synthesis is only required for parasite late liver-stage development.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae / parasitology
  • Fatty Acids / biosynthesis*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Knockout Techniques
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages / physiology
  • Liver / parasitology
  • Malaria / parasitology
  • Plasmodium / enzymology
  • Plasmodium / genetics
  • Plasmodium / metabolism
  • Plasmodium / physiology*


  • Fatty Acids