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Int J Biochem Cell Biol. 2010 Jun;42(6):781-4. doi: 10.1016/j.biocel.2010.03.010. Epub 2010 Mar 18.

Malaria: could its unusual epigenome be the weak spot?

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Radboud University Nijmegen, Nijmegen Center for Molecular Life Sciences, Department of Molecular Biology, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands.


The epigenetic contribution to the regulation and maintenance of gene expression patterns by histone modifications is well established in eukaryotes. In Plasmodium falciparum, the mechanisms and factors regulating gene expression during progression through its infected red blood cell cycle (iRBC) and underlying mutually exclusive expression of antigenic variation genes involved in immune evasion are far from understood. Recently, the first comprehensive analyses of the P. falciparum chromatin landscape at different iRBC stages have been performed. These studies uncovered the existence of well-defined heterochromatic regions within a generally euchromatic epigenome. Notably, silencing of genes encoding for virulence determinants such as var genes, appears to be orchestrated by the concerted action of the Sir2 and HP1 orthologs and the presence of the histone mark, H3K9me3. Epigenetic speciation could make the parasite exquisitely vulnerable to epigenetic drug treatment, unless this deadly parasite still has a number of tricks up his sleeves.

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