Functional characterisation of sexual stage specific proteins in Plasmodium falciparum

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



International Journal for Parasitology








Gene disruption; Malaria; Plasmodium falciparum; Sexual differentiation; Transmission


The various stages of the malaria parasites in the vertebrate host and in the mosquito vector offer numerous candidates for vaccine and drug development. However, the biological complexity of the parasites and the interaction with the immune system of the host continue to frustrate all such efforts thus far. While most of the targets for drug and vaccine design have focused on the asexual stages, the sexual stages of the parasite are critical for transmission and maintenance of parasites among susceptible vertebrate hosts. Sexual stage parasites undergo a series of morphological and biochemical changes during their development, accompanied by a co-ordinated cascade of a distinct expression pattern of sexual stage specific proteins. Mechanisms underlying the developmental switch from asexual parasite to sexual parasite still remain elusive. Methods that can break the malaria transmission cycle thus occupy a central place in the overall malaria control strategies. This paper provides a review of genes expressed in sexually differentiated Plasmodium. In the past few years, a molecular approach based on targeted gene disruption has revealed fascinating biological roles for many of the sexual stage gene products. In addition, we will briefly discuss other functional genomic approaches employed to study not only sexual but also other aspects of host-parasite biology. © 2002 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. on behalf of Australian Society for Parasitology Inc.