Genome-wide functional analysis reveals key roles for kinesins in the mammalian and mosquito stages of the malaria parasite life cycle

PLoS Biol. 2022 Jul 28;20(7):e3001704. doi: 10.1371/journal.pbio.3001704. eCollection 2022 Jul.


Kinesins are microtubule (MT)-based motors important in cell division, motility, polarity, and intracellular transport in many eukaryotes. However, they are poorly studied in the divergent eukaryotic pathogens Plasmodium spp., the causative agents of malaria, which manifest atypical aspects of cell division and plasticity of morphology throughout the life cycle in both mammalian and mosquito hosts. Here, we describe a genome-wide screen of Plasmodium kinesins, revealing diverse subcellular locations and functions in spindle assembly, axoneme formation, and cell morphology. Surprisingly, only kinesin-13 is essential for growth in the mammalian host while the other 8 kinesins are required during the proliferative and invasive stages of parasite transmission through the mosquito vector. In-depth analyses of kinesin-13 and kinesin-20 revealed functions in MT dynamics during apical cell polarity formation, spindle assembly, and axoneme biogenesis. These findings help us to understand the importance of MT motors and may be exploited to discover new therapeutic interventions against malaria.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Culicidae*
  • Humans
  • Kinesins / genetics
  • Life Cycle Stages / genetics
  • Malaria* / metabolism
  • Mammals
  • Microtubules / metabolism
  • Parasites*
  • Plasmodium* / genetics


  • Kinesins