Malaria transmission relies on the production of gametes following ingestion by a mosquito. Here, we show that Ca2+-dependent protein kinase 4 controls three processes essential to progress from a single haploid microgametocyte to the release of eight flagellated microgametes in Plasmodium berghei. A myristoylated isoform is activated by Ca2+ to initiate a first genome replication within twenty seconds of activation. This role is mediated by a protein of the SAPS-domain family involved in S-phase entry. At the same time, CDPK4 is required for the assembly of the subsequent mitotic spindle and to phosphorylate a microtubule-associated protein important for mitotic spindle formation. Finally, a non-myristoylated isoform is essential to complete cytokinesis by activating motility of the male flagellum. This role has been linked to phosphorylation of an uncharacterised flagellar protein. Altogether, this study reveals how a kinase integrates and transduces multiple signals to control key cell-cycle transitions during Plasmodium gametogenesis.
Keywords: Plasmodium berghei; calcium; cell biology; cell cycle; infectious disease; malaria; microbiology; protein kinase; signalling.