A Plasmodium berghei putative serine-threonine kinase 2 ( PBANKA_0311400) is required for late liver stage development and timely initiation of blood stage infection

Biol Open. 2019 Aug 23;8(8):bio042028. doi: 10.1242/bio.042028.


In Plasmodium, protein kinases govern key biological processes of the parasite life cycle involved in the establishment of infection, dissemination and sexual reproduction. The rodent malaria model P lasmodium berghei encodes for 66 putative eukaryotic protein kinases (ePKs) as identified through modelling domain signatures and are highly conserved in Plasmodium falciparum We report here the functional characterisation of a putative serine-threonine kinase P BANKA_0311400 identified in this kinome analysis and designate it as Pbstk2 To elucidate its role, we knocked out Pbstk2 locus and performed a detailed phenotypic analysis at different life cycle stages. The Pbstk2 knockout (KO) was not compromised in asexual blood stage propagation, transmission and development in the mosquito vector. The Pbstk2 KO produced viable salivary gland sporozoites that successfully transformed into exo-erythrocytic forms (EEFs) and were morphologically indistinguishable from wild-type GFP (WT GFP) with regard to size and shape until 48 h. An intravenous dose of 1×103 Pbstk2 KO sporozoites in C57BL/6 mice failed to establish blood stage infection and a higher dose of 5X103 showed a 2-3 day delay in prepatency as compared to WT GFP parasites. Consistent with such an observation, analysis of in vitro EEF development at 62 h revealed that the hepatic merozoite numbers were reduced to nearly 40% as compared to WT GFP and showed meagre expression of MSP1. Our studies provide evidence for the role of PbSTK2 in late liver stage development and for the successful establishment of a timely blood stage infection.

Keywords: Exo-erythrocytic forms; Hepatic schizogony; MSP1; Plasmodium; Pre-patent period; Serine-threonine kinases; Uis genes.