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Anal Chem. 2014 Sep 2;86(17):8814-21. doi: 10.1021/ac502098w. Epub 2014 Aug 15.

Multicolor bioluminescence boosts malaria research: quantitative dual-color assay and single-cell imaging in Plasmodium falciparum parasites.

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INBB, Istituto Nazionale di Biostrutture e Biosistemi , 00136 Rome, Italy.


New reliable and cost-effective antimalarial drug screening assays are urgently needed to identify drugs acting on different stages of the parasite Plasmodium falciparum, and particularly those responsible for human-to-mosquito transmission, that is, the P. falciparum gametocytes. Low Z' factors, narrow dynamic ranges, and/or extended assay times are commonly reported in current gametocyte assays measuring gametocyte-expressed fluorescent or luciferase reporters, endogenous ATP levels, activity of gametocyte enzymes, or redox-dependent dye fluorescence. We hereby report on a dual-luciferase gametocyte assay with immature and mature P. falciparum gametocyte stages expressing red and green-emitting luciferases from Pyrophorus plagiophthalamus under the control of the parasite sexual stage-specific pfs16 gene promoter. The assay was validated with reference antimalarial drugs and allowed to quantitatively and simultaneously measure stage-specific drug effects on parasites at different developmental stages. The optimized assay, requiring only 48 h incubation with drugs and using a cost-effective luminogenic substrate, significantly reduces assay cost and time in comparison to state-of-the-art analogous assays. The assay had a Z' factor of 0.71 ± 0.03, and it is suitable for implementation in 96- and 384-well microplate formats. Moreover, the use of a nonlysing D-luciferin substrate significantly improved the reliability of the assay and allowed one to perform, for the first time, P. falciparum bioluminescence imaging at single-cell level.

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