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Trends Parasitol. 2002 Jan;18(1):32-8.

Plasmodium sex determination and transmission to mosquitoes.

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Unité de Biochimie et Biologie Moléculaire des Insectes, Institut Pasteur, 28 rue du Dr Roux, 75724 Cedex 15, Paris, France.


In order to be transmitted by their mosquito vector, malaria parasites undergo sexual reproduction, which occurs between specialized male and female parasites (gametes) within the blood meal in the mosquito. Nothing was known about how Plasmodium determines the sex of its gametocytes (gamete precursors), which are produced in the vertebrate host. Recently, erythropoietin, the vertebrate hormone controlling erythropoiesis in response to anaemia, was implicated in Plasmodium sex determination in animal models of malaria. This review examines the available information and addresses the relevance of such a sex determining mechanism for Plasmodium falciparum transmission to mosquitoes, with special reference to low gametocytaemias.

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