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Mol Microbiol. 2001 Jan;39(1):26-36.

Co-ordinated programme of gene expression during asexual intraerythrocytic development of the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum revealed by microarray analysis.

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Washington University School of Medicine, 660 S. Euclid Avenue, Box 8230, St Louis, MO 63110. USA.


Plasmodium falciparum is a protozoan parasite responsible for the most severe forms of human malaria. All the clinical symptoms and pathological changes seen during human infection are caused by the asexual blood stages of Plasmodium. Within host red blood cells, the parasite undergoes enormous developmental changes during its maturation. In order to analyse the expression of genes during intraerythrocytic development, DNA microarrays were constructed and probed with stage-specific cDNA. Developmental upregulation of specific mRNAs was found to cluster into functional groups and revealed a co-ordinated programme of gene expression. Those involved in protein synthesis (ribosomal proteins, translation factors) peaked early in development, followed by those involved in metabolism, most dramatically glycolysis genes. Adhesion/invasion genes were turned on later in the maturation process. At the end of intraerythrocytic development (late schizogony), there was a general shut-off of gene expression, although a small set of genes, including a number of protein kinases, were turned on at this stage. Nearly all genes showed some regulation over the course of development. A handful of genes remained constant and should be useful for normalizing mRNA levels between stages. These data will facilitate functional analysis of the P. falciparum genome and will help to identify genes with a critical role in parasite progression and multiplication in the human host.

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