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Int J Parasitol. 2006 Oct;36(12):1283-93. Epub 2006 Jul 12.

Quantitative isolation and in vivo imaging of malaria parasite liver stages.

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Seattle Biomedical Research Institute, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.


The liver stages of Plasmodium, the causative agent of malaria, are the least explored forms in the parasite's life cycle despite their recognition as key vaccine and drug targets. In vivo experimental access to liver stages of human malaria parasites is practically prohibited and therefore rodent model malaria parasites have been used for in vivo studies. However, even in rodent models progress in the analysis of liver stages has been limited, mainly due to their low abundance and associated difficulties in visualisation and isolation. Here, we present green fluorescent protein (GFP)-tagged Plasmodium yoelii rodent malaria parasite liver infections in BALB/c mice as an excellent quantitative model for the live visualisation and isolation of the so far elusive liver stages. We believe P. yoelii GFP-tagged liver stages allow, for the first time, the efficient quantitative isolation of intact early and late liver stage-infected hepatocyte units by fluorescence activated cell sorting. GFP-tagged liver stages are also well suited for intravital imaging, allowing us for the first time to visualise them in real time. We identify previously unrecognised features of liver stages including vigorous parasite movement and expulsion of 'extrusomes'. Intravital imaging thus reveals new, important information on the malaria parasite's transition from tissue to blood stage.

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