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Mol Biochem Parasitol. 1993 Jun;59(2):263-75.

Structure and expression of a post-transcriptionally regulated malaria gene encoding a surface protein from the sexual stages of Plasmodium berghei.

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Department of Biology, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK.


The sexual stage-specific protein Pbs21 of the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium berghei, expressed on the surface of zygotes and ookinetes, has been shown to induce an effective and long-lasting transmission blocking immunity. The gene encoding Pbs21 was cloned by screening a cDNA library prepared from enriched zygotes and ookinetes using the monoclonal antibody 13.1.15, which is capable of blocking subsequent parasite sexual development in the mosquito vector. The Pbs21 gene encoded a protein of 213 amino acids which contained a putative amino-terminal signal sequence and a putative carboxy-terminal hydrophobic membrane anchor. The amino-acid sequence was characterised by a large number of cysteine residues which were organized into 4 epidermal growth factor-like domains. The spacing of the cysteine residues was highly conserved when compared to the 25-kDa ookinete proteins of Plasmodium falciparum (Pfs25), Plasmodium reichenowi (Prs25) and Plasmodium gallinaceum (Pgs25) which were approximately 45%, 45% and 40% homologous to Pbs21 respectively. The gene is located on chromosome 5 and cross-hybridizes to a similarly defined gene unit in the other rodent malaria species Plasmodium chabaudi, Plasmodium vinckei and Plasmodium yoelii. The gene is internally disposed and not in the subtelomeric region of chromosome 5. The gene is transcribed in a stage-specific manner giving rise to an abundant 1.5-kb transcript. This mRNA is synthesised in the precursor cells to female gametes (gametocytes) however the protein is observed only after activation of the gametes, suggesting that translation of the mRNA is controlled by a post-transcriptional process. The Pbs21 gene and the P. berghei parasite system provide an excellent vehicle for the study of stage-specific transcriptional and post-transcriptional control in malaria.

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