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Cytometry A. 2008 Jun;73(6):546-54. doi: 10.1002/cyto.a.20541.

Monitoring Plasmodium falciparum growth and development by UV flow cytometry using an optimized Hoechst-thiazole orange staining strategy.

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  • 1Center for Global Health and Disease, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio 44106-7286, USA.


The complex life cycle of Plasmodium falciparum (Pf) makes it difficult to limit infections and reduce the risk of severe malaria. Improved understanding of Pf blood-stage growth and development would provide new opportunities to evaluate and interfere with successful completion of the parasite's life cycle. Cultured blood stage Pf was incubated with Hoechst 33342 (HO) and thiazole orange (TO) to stain DNA and total nucleic acids, respectively. Correlated HO and TO fluorescence emissions were then measured by flow cytometry. Complex bivariate data patterns were analyzed by manual cluster gating to quantify parasite life cycle stages. The permutations of viable staining with both reagents were tested for optimal detection of parasitized RBC (pRBC). Pf cultures were exposed to HO and TO simultaneously to achieve optimal staining of pRBC and consistent quantification of early and late stages of the replicative cycle (rings through schizonts). Staining of Pf nucleic acids allows for analysis of parasite development in the absence of fixatives, lysis, or radioactivity to enable examination of erythrocytes from parasite invasion through schizont rupture using sensitive and rapid assay procedures. Investigation of the mechanisms by which anti-malarial drugs and antibodies act against different Pf lifecycle stages will be aided by this cytometric strategy.

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