Background: In Plasmodium, meiosis occurs in diploid zygotes as they develop into haploid motile ookinetes inside the mosquito. Further sporogonic development involves transformation of ookinetes into oocysts and formation of infective sporozoites.
Methodology/principal findings: Reverse genetics was employed to examine the role of the meiotic specific recombinase Dmc1, a bacterial RecA homolog during sporogony in Plasmodium berghei. PbDmc1 knockout (KO) parasites showed normal asexual growth kinetics compared to WT parasites; however oocyst formation in mosquitoes was reduced by 50 to 80%. Moreover, the majority of oocysts were retarded in their growth and were smaller in size compared to WT parasites. Only a few Dmc1 KO parasites completed maturation resulting in formation of fewer sporozoites which were incapable of infecting naive mice or hepatocytes in vitro. PbDmc1 KO parasites were shown to be approximately 18 times more sensitive to Bizelesin, a DNA alkylating drug compared to WT parasites as reflected by impairment of oocyst formation and sporogonic development in the mosquito vector.
Conclusions/significance: Our findings suggest that PbDmc1 plays a critical role in malaria transmission biology.