Predicting gene expression in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum using histone modification, nucleosome positioning, and 3D localization features

PLoS Comput Biol. 2019 Sep 11;15(9):e1007329. doi: 10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007329. eCollection 2019 Sep.


Empirical evidence suggests that the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum employs a broad range of mechanisms to regulate gene transcription throughout the organism's complex life cycle. To better understand this regulatory machinery, we assembled a rich collection of genomic and epigenomic data sets, including information about transcription factor (TF) binding motifs, patterns of covalent histone modifications, nucleosome occupancy, GC content, and global 3D genome architecture. We used these data to train machine learning models to discriminate between high-expression and low-expression genes, focusing on three distinct stages of the red blood cell phase of the Plasmodium life cycle. Our results highlight the importance of histone modifications and 3D chromatin architecture in Plasmodium transcriptional regulation and suggest that AP2 transcription factors may play a limited regulatory role, perhaps operating in conjunction with epigenetic factors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Computational Biology / methods*
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Gene Expression Regulation / genetics
  • Genes, Protozoan / genetics
  • Histone Code / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Machine Learning
  • Malaria, Falciparum
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Statistical*
  • Nucleosomes / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / cytology
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / pathogenicity


  • Nucleosomes