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J Infect Dis. 2005 Apr 1;191(7):1196-203. Epub 2005 Feb 28.

In vivo transcriptome of Plasmodium falciparum reveals overexpression of transcripts that encode surface proteins.

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Department of Immunology and Infectious Disease, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.


Infections with the human parasite Plasmodium falciparum continue to present a great challenge to global health. Fundamental questions regarding the molecular basis of virulence and immune evasion in P. falciparum have been only partially answered. Because of the parasite's intracellular location and complex life cycle, standard genetic approaches to the study of the pathogenesis of malaria have been limited. The present study presents a novel approach to the identification of the biological processes involved in host-pathogen interactions, one that is based on the analysis of in vivo P. falciparum transcripts. We demonstrate that a sufficient quantity of P. falciparum RNA transcripts can be derived from a small blood sample from infected patients for whole-genome microarray analysis. Overall, excellent correlation was observed between the transcriptomes derived from in vivo samples and in vitro samples with ring-stage P. falciparum 3D7 reference strain. However, gene families that encode surface proteins are overexpressed in vivo. Moreover, this analysis has identified a new family of hypothetical genes that may encode surface variant antigens. Comparative studies of the transcriptomes derived from in vivo samples and in vitro 3D7 samples may identify important strategies used by the pathogen for survival in the human host and highlight, for vaccine development, new candidate antigens that were not previously identified through the use of in vitro cultures.

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