Characterization of the dual role of Plasmodium falciparum DNA methyltransferase in regulating transcription and translation

Nucleic Acids Res. 2023 May 8;51(8):3918-3933. doi: 10.1093/nar/gkad248.


DNA modifications are critical in fine-tuning the biological processes in model organisms. However, the presence of cytosine methylation (5mC) and the function of the putative DNA methyltransferase, PfDNMT2, in the human malaria pathogen, Plasmodium falciparum, remain controversial. Here, we revisited the 5mC in the parasite genome and the function of PfDNMT2. Low levels of genomic 5mC (0.1-0.2%) during asexual development were identified using a sensitive mass spectrometry procedure. Native PfDNMT2 displayed substantial DNA methylation activities, and disruption or overexpression of PfDNMT2 resulted in reduced or elevated genomic 5mC levels, respectively. PfDNMT2 disruption led to an increased proliferation phenotype, with the parasites having an extended schizont stage and producing a higher number of progenies. Consistent with PfDNMT2's interaction with an AP2 domain-containing transcription factor, transcriptomic analyses revealed that PfDNMT2 disruption led to a drastic alteration in the expression of many genes, some of which provided the molecular basis of enhanced proliferation after PfDNMT2 disruption. Furthermore, levels of tRNAAsp and its methylation rate at position C38, and the translation of a reporter containing an aspartate repeat were significantly reduced after PfDNMT2 disruption, while the levels of tRNAAsp and its C38 methylation were restored after complementation of PfDNMT2. Our study sheds new light on the dual function of PfDNMT2 during P. falciparum asexual development.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • DNA / genetics
  • DNA Methylation
  • Methyltransferases* / genetics
  • Plasmodium falciparum* / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins* / genetics
  • Protozoan Proteins* / metabolism
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp / genetics


  • DNA
  • Methyltransferases
  • Protozoan Proteins
  • RNA, Transfer, Asp