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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2008 Apr;158(2):208-12. doi: 10.1016/j.molbiopara.2007.12.009. Epub 2008 Jan 14.

Effect of protease inhibitors on exflagellation in Plasmodium falciparum.

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Research Center for Infectious Diseases, University of Würzburg, Röntgenring 11, 97070 Würzburg, Germany.


Enzymes involved in sexual differentiation and fertilization of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum represent potential targets for transmission blocking strategies. Parasite proteases are putatively involved in several steps during fertilization, but the types of proteases, their targets and modes of action remain hitherto unknown. We investigated the involvement of proteases in gametogenesis via exflagellation and immunofluorescence assays, using a variety of commercially available as well as newly designed protease inhibitors. The assays revealed a blockade of microgamete formation by the cysteine/serine protease inhibitors TLCK and TPCK. The serine protease inhibitor PMSF, the falcipain-targeting inhibitor RV112D, and the aspartic protease inhibitor EPNP also significantly decreased formation of microgametes. The metalloprotease inhibitor 1,10-phenanthroline, on the other hand, inhibited exflagellation by interfering with microgamete motility. Furthermore, EPNP reduced the activation of male and female gametocytes. Our data point to a major involvement of serine proteases and a non-thermolysin-like zinc metalloprotease in microgametocyte exflagellation.

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