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PLoS Pathog. 2013;9(8):e1003522. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003522. Epub 2013 Aug 1.

Malaria parasite-synthesized heme is essential in the mosquito and liver stages and complements host heme in the blood stages of infection.

Author information

1
Centre for Infectious Disease Research, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, India. arunv@biochem.iisc.ernet.in

Abstract

Heme metabolism is central to malaria parasite biology. The parasite acquires heme from host hemoglobin in the intraerythrocytic stages and stores it as hemozoin to prevent free heme toxicity. The parasite can also synthesize heme de novo, and all the enzymes in the pathway are characterized. To study the role of the dual heme sources in malaria parasite growth and development, we knocked out the first enzyme, δ-aminolevulinate synthase (ALAS), and the last enzyme, ferrochelatase (FC), in the heme-biosynthetic pathway of Plasmodium berghei (Pb). The wild-type and knockout (KO) parasites had similar intraerythrocytic growth patterns in mice. We carried out in vitro radiolabeling of heme in Pb-infected mouse reticulocytes and Plasmodium falciparum-infected human RBCs using [4-(14)C] aminolevulinic acid (ALA). We found that the parasites incorporated both host hemoglobin-heme and parasite-synthesized heme into hemozoin and mitochondrial cytochromes. The similar fates of the two heme sources suggest that they may serve as backup mechanisms to provide heme in the intraerythrocytic stages. Nevertheless, the de novo pathway is absolutely essential for parasite development in the mosquito and liver stages. PbKO parasites formed drastically reduced oocysts and did not form sporozoites in the salivary glands. Oocyst production in PbALASKO parasites recovered when mosquitoes received an ALA supplement. PbALASKO sporozoites could infect mice only when the mice received an ALA supplement. Our results indicate the potential for new therapeutic interventions targeting the heme-biosynthetic pathway in the parasite during the mosquito and liver stages.

PMID:
23935500
PMCID:
PMC3731253
DOI:
10.1371/journal.ppat.1003522
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

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