The malaria parasite has an intrinsic clock

Science. 2020 May 15;368(6492):746-753. doi: 10.1126/science.aba2658.


Malarial rhythmic fevers are the consequence of the synchronous bursting of red blood cells (RBCs) on completion of the malaria parasite asexual cell cycle. Here, we hypothesized that an intrinsic clock in the parasite Plasmodium chabaudi underlies the 24-hour-based rhythms of RBC bursting in mice. We show that parasite rhythms are flexible and lengthen to match the rhythms of hosts with long circadian periods. We also show that malaria rhythms persist even when host food intake is evenly spread across 24 hours, suggesting that host feeding cues are not required for synchrony. Moreover, we find that the parasite population remains synchronous and rhythmic even in an arrhythmic clock mutant host. Thus, we propose that parasite rhythms are generated by the parasite, possibly to anticipate its circadian environment.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • CLOCK Proteins / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / genetics
  • Circadian Rhythm / physiology*
  • Cues
  • Darkness
  • Eating
  • Erythrocytes / parasitology
  • Feeding Behavior
  • Fever / parasitology*
  • Fever / physiopathology*
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / genetics
  • Host-Parasite Interactions / physiology*
  • Malaria / parasitology*
  • Malaria / physiopathology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Mutant Strains
  • Plasmodium chabaudi / genetics
  • Plasmodium chabaudi / physiology*
  • Transcription, Genetic


  • CLOCK Proteins