Background: Well-defined promoters are essential elements for genetic studies in all organisms, and enable controlled expression of endogenous genes, transgene expression, and gene editing. Despite this, there is a paucity of defined promoters for the rodent-infectious malaria parasites. This is especially true for Plasmodium yoelii, which is often used to study the mosquito and liver stages of malarial infection, as well as host immune responses to infection.
Methods: Here six promoters were selected from across the parasite's life cycle (clag-a, dynein heavy chain delta, lap4, trap, uis4, lisp2) that have been invoked in the literature as controlling their genes in a stage-specific manner. A minimal promoter length for the constitutive pybip promoter that confers strong expression levels was also determined, which is useful for expression of reporters and gene editing enzymes.
Results: Instead, it was observed that these promoters confer stage-enriched gene control, as some parasites also effectively use these promoters in other stages. Thus, when used alone, these promoters could complicate the interpretation of results obtained from promoter swaps, stage-targeted recombination, or gene editing experiments.
Conclusions: Together these data indicate that achieving stage-specific effects, such as gene editing, is likely best done using a two-component system with independent promoter activities overlapping only in the intended life cycle stage.
Keywords: Gene editing; Malaria parasite; Plasmodium yoelii; Stage-enriched promoter.