PbAP2-FG2 and PbAP2R-2 function together as a transcriptional repressor complex essential for Plasmodium female development

PLoS Pathog. 2023 Feb 13;19(2):e1010890. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1010890. eCollection 2023 Feb.


Gametocyte development is a critical step in the life cycle of Plasmodium. Despite the number of studies on gametocyte development that have been conducted, the molecular mechanisms regulating this process remain to be fully understood. This study investigates the functional roles of two female-specific transcriptional regulators, PbAP2-FG2 and PbAP2R-2, in P. berghei. Knockout of pbap2-fg2 or pbap2r-2 impairs female gametocyte development, resulting in developmental arrest during ookinete development. ChIP-seq analyses of these two factors indicated their colocalization on the genome, suggesting that they function as a complex. These analyses also revealed that their target genes contained a variety of genes, including both male and female-enriched genes. Moreover, differential expression analyses showed that these target genes were upregulated through the disruption of pbap2-fg2 or pbap2r-2, indicating that these two factors function as a transcriptional repressor complex in female gametocytes. Formation of a complex between PbAP2-FG2 and PbAP2R-2 was confirmed by RIME, a method that combines ChIP and MS analysis. In addition, the analysis identified a chromatin regulator PbMORC as an interaction partner of PbAP2-FG2. Comparative target analysis between PbAP2-FG2 and PbAP2-G demonstrated a significant overlap between their target genes, suggesting that repression of early gametocyte genes activated by PbAP2-G is one of the key roles for this female transcriptional repressor complex. Our results indicate that the PbAP2-FG2-PbAP2R-2 complex-mediated repression of the target genes supports the female differentiation from early gametocytes.

MeSH terms

  • Plasmodium berghei* / physiology
  • Protozoan Proteins* / metabolism


  • Protozoan Proteins

Grant support

This work was supported by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (17H01542 to YM; 20K07462 to IK; 21K06986 to TN). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.