Molecular markers of radiation induced attenuation in intrahepatic plasmodium falciparum parasites

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Journal Article

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© This is an open access article, free of all copyright, and may be freely reproduced, distributed, transmitted, modified, built upon, or otherwise used by anyone for any lawful purpose. The work is made available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. Experimental immunization with radiation attenuated sporozoites (RAS) and genetically attenuated sporozoites has proved to be a promising approach for malaria vaccine development. However, parasite biomarkers of growth attenuation and enhanced immune protection in response to radiation remain poorly understood. Here, we report on the effect of an attenuating dose of ã-irradiation (15 krad) on the Plasmodium falciparum sporozoite (PfSPZ) ultrastructure by electron microscopy, growth rate of liver stage P. falciparum in liver cell cultures, and genome-wide transcriptional profile of liver stage parasites by microarray. We find that ã-irradiation treated PfSPZ retained a normal cellular structure except that they were vacuous with a partially disrupted plasma membrane and inner membrane complex. A similar infection rate was observed by ã-irradiation-treated and untreated PfSPZ in human HCO-4 liver cells (0.47% versus 0.49%, respectively) on day 3 post-infection. In the microarray studies, cumulatively, 180 liver stage parasite genes were significantly transcriptionally altered on day 3 and/or 6 post-infection. Among the transcriptionally altered biomarkers, we identified a signature of seven candidate parasite genes that associated with functionally diverse pathways that may regulate radiation induced cell cycle arrest of the parasite within the hepatocyte. A repertoire of 14 genes associated with protein translation is transcriptionally overexpressed within the parasite by radiation. Additionally, 37 genes encode proteins expressed on the cell surface or exported into the host cell, 4 encode membrane associated transporters, and 10 encode proteins related to misfolding and stress-related protein processing. These results have significantly increased the repertoire of novel targets for 1) biomarkers of safety to define proper attenuation, 2) generating genetically attenuated parasite vaccine candidates, and 3) subunit candidate vaccines against liver stage malaria.