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Annu Rev Microbiol. 2000;54:157-85.

The development of genetic tools for dissecting the biology of malaria parasites.

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Department of Parasitology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Plasmodium parasites are haploid unicellular organisms that cause malaria. In the last decade, transfection systems have been developed for both human and animal model species of Plasmodium, providing a broad range of genetic tools for the study of malaria parasite biology. Transient transfection has been used to provide insight into the regulation of gene expression by Plasmodium spp. The development of stable transfection technologies has provided the opportunity to express transgenes in Plasmodium spp., as well as elucidate the function of proteins by disrupting, modifying, or replacing the genes encoding them. These genetic tools represent an important breakthrough for malaria research and will significantly contribute to our understanding of the biology of the parasite. However, further developments in this technology are still required, especially because the full genome sequence of the major human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum will shortly be available. Ultimately, the biological information obtained through genetic manipulation of Plasmodium spp. will facilitate a more rational approach to vaccine and drug design.

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