Conditional expression of PfAP2-G for controlled massive sexual conversion in Plasmodium falciparum

Sci Adv. 2020 Jun 10;6(24):eaaz5057. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aaz5057. eCollection 2020 Jun.


Malaria transmission requires that some asexual parasites convert into sexual forms termed gametocytes. The initial stages of sexual development, including sexually committed schizonts and sexual rings, remain poorly characterized, mainly because they are morphologically identical to their asexual counterparts and only a small subset of parasites undergo sexual development. Here, we describe a system for controlled sexual conversion in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum, based on conditional expression of the PfAP2-G transcription factor. Using this system, ~90 percent of the parasites converted into sexual forms upon induction, enabling the characterization of committed and early sexual stages without further purification. We characterized sexually committed schizonts and sexual rings at the transcriptomic and phenotypic levels, which revealed down-regulation of genes involved in solute transport upon sexual commitment, among other findings. The new inducible lines will facilitate the study of early sexual stages at additional levels, including multiomic characterization and drug susceptibility assays.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Gene Expression Regulation
  • Humans
  • Malaria* / parasitology
  • Parasites*
  • Plasmodium falciparum / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum / metabolism
  • Transcription Factors / metabolism


  • Transcription Factors