Dynamic and Combinatorial Landscape of Histone Modifications during the Intraerythrocytic Developmental Cycle of the Malaria Parasite

J Proteome Res. 2016 Aug 5;15(8):2787-801. doi: 10.1021/acs.jproteome.6b00366. Epub 2016 Jun 24.


A major obstacle in understanding the complex biology of the malaria parasite remains to discover how gene transcription is controlled during its life cycle. Accumulating evidence indicates that the parasite's epigenetic state plays a fundamental role in gene expression and virulence. Using a comprehensive and quantitative mass spectrometry approach, we determined the global and dynamic abundance of histones and their covalent post-transcriptional modifications throughout the intraerythrocytic developmental cycle of Plasmodium falciparum. We detected a total of 232 distinct modifications, of which 160 had never been detected in Plasmodium and 88 had never been identified in any other species. We further validated over 10% of the detected modifications and their expression patterns by multiple reaction monitoring assays. In addition, we uncovered an unusual chromatin organization with parasite-specific histone modifications and combinatorial dynamics that may be directly related to transcriptional activity, DNA replication, and cell cycle progression. Overall, our data suggest that the malaria parasite has a unique histone modification signature that correlates with parasite virulence.

Keywords: cell cycle; epigenetics; histones; label-free quantification; malaria; multiple reaction monitoring; parasite; post-translational modifications; tandem mass spectrometry.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Epigenesis, Genetic
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Histone Code*
  • Histones / metabolism
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics*
  • Malaria / parasitology*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity*
  • Protozoan Proteins / adverse effects
  • Protozoan Proteins / analysis
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transcriptional Activation


  • Histones
  • Protozoan Proteins