Slamming the brakes on the malaria life cycle | Science CodexPosted: February 24, 2012
The new study provides the first description of the role of CDC20 in Plasmodium cell division and in the development of the malaria parasite’s male sex cells (microgametes), which are essential for parasite transmission between humans and the mosquito carrier. The scientists have discovered that the absence of this gene stops the male sex cell from bursting out of its host cell and fertilising a female cell as they are arrested in their cell division.
The sexual stage of the malaria parasite’s life-cycle occurs within the mosquito after it has fed on malaria-infected blood. This activates the parasite’s sexual phase and during this period, the male sex cell precursor (microgametocyte) rapidly replicates it DNA and produces 8 male sex cells (gametes). These gametes then burst out of the microgametocyte in a process called exflagellation and seek out a female sex cell to fertilise. By blocking the process of exflagellation, the team have identified a way of slamming the brakes on malaria transmission.
The team of researchers were from the Centre of Genetics and Genomics at The University of Nottingham, the University of Oxford, Imperial College London, Leiden University, the University of Leicester and the MRC National Institute for Medical Research funded by the MRC, Wellcome Trust, and EviMalar.
The group at Nottingham has previously uncovered other major players in the life cycle of the malaria parasite. More details on these can be found in earlier media releases ‘Stopping the spread of malaria’ and ‘Malaria research begins to bite’.