The completion of the Plasmodium (malaria) life cycle in the mosquito requires the parasite to traverse first the midgut and later the salivary gland epithelium. We have identified a putative kinase-related protein (PKRP) that is predicted to be an atypical protein kinase, which is conserved across many species of Plasmodium. The pkrp gene encodes a RNA of about 5300 nucleotides that is expressed as a 90kDa protein in sporozoites. Targeted disruption of the pkrp gene in Plasmodium berghei, a rodent model of malaria, compromises the ability of parasites to infect different tissues within the mosquito host. Early infection of mosquito midgut is reduced by 58-71%, midgut oocyst production is reduced by 50-90% and those sporozoites that are produced are defective in their ability to invade mosquito salivary glands. Midgut sporozoites are not morphologically different from wild-type parasites by electron microscopy. Some sporozoites that emerged from oocysts were attached to the salivary glands but most were found circulating in the mosquito hemocoel. Our findings indicate that a signalling pathway involving PbPKRP regulates the level of Plasmodium infection in the mosquito midgut and salivary glands.
2010 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.