P. falciparum modulates erythroblast cell gene expression in signaling and erythrocyte production pathways

PLoS One. 2011 May 4;6(5):e19307. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0019307.


Global, genomic responses of erythrocytes to infectious agents have been difficult to measure because these cells are e-nucleated. We have previously demonstrated that in vitro matured, nucleated erythroblast cells at the orthochromatic stage can be efficiently infected by the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. We now show that infection of orthochromatic cells induces change in 609 host genes. 592 of these transcripts are up-regulated and associated with metabolic and chaperone pathways unique to P. falciparum infection, as well as a wide range of signaling pathways that are also induced in related apicomplexan infections of mouse hepatocytes or human fibroblast cells. Our data additionally show that polychromatophilic cells, which precede the orthochromatic stage and are not infected when co-cultured with P. falciparum, up-regulate a small set of genes, at least two of which are associated with pathways of hematopoiesis and/or erythroid cell development. These data support the idea that P. falciparum affects erythropoiesis at multiple stages during erythroblast differentiation. Further P. falciparum may modulate gene expression in bystander erythroblasts and thus influence pathways of erythrocyte development. This study provides a benchmark of the host erythroblast cell response to infection by P. falciparum.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Erythroblasts / cytology
  • Erythroblasts / metabolism*
  • Erythrocytes / cytology
  • Erythrocytes / metabolism*
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / cytology
  • Hematopoietic Stem Cells / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Plasmodium falciparum / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Signal Transduction / physiology