A family of apicomplexa-specific proteins containing AP2 DNA-binding domains (ApiAP2s) was identified in malaria parasites. This family includes sequence-specific transcription factors that are key regulators of development. However, functions for the majority of ApiAP2 genes remain unknown. Here, a systematic knockout screen in Plasmodium berghei identified ten ApiAP2 genes that were essential for mosquito transmission: four were critical for the formation of infectious ookinetes, and three were required for sporogony. We describe non-essential functions for AP2-O and AP2-SP proteins in blood stages, and identify AP2-G2 as a repressor active in both asexual and sexual stages. Comparative transcriptomics across mutants and developmental stages revealed clusters of co-regulated genes with shared cis promoter elements, whose expression can be controlled positively or negatively by different ApiAP2 factors. We propose that stage-specific interactions between ApiAP2 proteins on partly overlapping sets of target genes generate the complex transcriptional network that controls the Plasmodium life cycle.
Keywords: Apetala 2; ap2-l; ap2-o; ap2-o2; ap2-o3; ap2-o4; ap2-sp; ap2-sp2; ap2-sp3; oocyst.
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