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J Biol Chem. 2011 Jul 29;286(30):26396-405. doi: 10.1074/jbc.M111.240879. Epub 2011 Jun 7.

Early transcriptional responses of HepG2-A16 liver cells to infection by Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites.

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  • 1United States Military Malaria Vaccine Program, Silver Spring, Maryland 20910-7500, USA.


Invasion of hepatocytes by Plasmodium sporozoites deposited by Anopheles mosquitoes, and their subsequent transformation into infective merozoites is an obligatory step in the initiation of malaria. Interactions between the sporozoites and hepatocytes lead to a distinct, complex and coordinated cellular and systemic host response. Little is known about host liver cell response to sporozoite invasion, or whether it is primarily adaptive for the parasite, for the host, or for both. Our present study used gene expression profiling of human HepG2-A16 liver cells infected with Plasmodium falciparum sporozoites to understand the host early cellular events and factors influencing parasite infectivity and sporozoite development. Our results show that as early as 30 min following wild-type, non-irradiated sporozoite exposure, the expressions of at least 742 genes was selectively altered. These genes regulate diverse biological functions, such as immune processes, cell adhesion and communications, metabolism pathways, cell cycle regulation, and signal transduction. These functions reflect cellular events consistent with initial host cell defense responses, as well as alterations in host cells to sustain sporozoites growth and survival. Irradiated sporozoites gave very similar gene expression pattern changes, but direct comparative analysis between liver gene expression profiles caused by irradiated and non-irradiated sporozoites identified 29 genes, including glypican-3, that were specifically up-regulated only in irradiated sporozoites. Elucidating the role of this subset of genes may help identify the molecular basis for the irradiated sporozoites inability to develop intrahepatically, and their usefulness as an immunogen for developing protective immunity against pre-erythrocytic stage malaria.

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