Coordinated regulation of gene expression in Plasmodium female gametocytes by two transcription factors

Elife. 2024 Jan 22:12:RP88317. doi: 10.7554/eLife.88317.


Gametocytes play key roles in the Plasmodium lifecycle. They are essential for sexual reproduction as precursors of the gametes. They also play an essential role in parasite transmission to mosquitoes. Elucidation of the gene regulation at this stage is essential for understanding these two processes at the molecular level and for developing new strategies to break the parasite lifecycle. We identified a novel Plasmodium transcription factor (TF), designated as a partner of AP2-FG or PFG. In this article, we report that this TF regulates the gene expression in female gametocytes in concert with another female-specific TF AP2-FG. Upon the disruption of PFG, majority of female-specific genes were significantly downregulated, and female gametocyte lost the ability to produce ookinetes. ChIP-seq analysis showed that it was located in the same position as AP2-FG, indicating that these two TFs form a complex. ChIP-seq analysis of PFG in AP2-FG-disrupted parasites and ChIP-seq analysis of AP2-FG in PFG-disrupted parasites demonstrated that PFG mediates the binding of AP2-FG to a ten-base motif and that AP2-FG binds another motif, GCTCA, in the absence of PFG. In promoter assays, this five-base motif was identified as another female-specific cis-acting element. Genes under the control of the two forms of AP2-FG, with or without PFG, partly overlapped; however, each form had target preferences. These results suggested that combinations of these two forms generate various expression patterns among the extensive genes expressed in female gametocytes.

Keywords: Plasmodium berghei; female; gametocyte; infectious disease; microbiology; transcription factor.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Assay
  • Culicidae*
  • Female
  • Plasmodium* / genetics
  • Transcription Factor AP-2
  • Transcription Factors / genetics


  • Transcription Factors
  • Transcription Factor AP-2

Associated data

  • GEO/GSE226028
  • GEO/GSE114096
  • GEO/GSE198588