Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 34045457
Link to DOI – 10.1038/s41467-021-23434-z
Nat Commun 2021 05; 12(1): 3196
Malaria parasites have a complex life cycle featuring diverse developmental strategies, each uniquely adapted to navigate specific host environments. Here we use single-cell transcriptomics to illuminate gene usage across the transmission cycle of the most virulent agent of human malaria – Plasmodium falciparum. We reveal developmental trajectories associated with the colonization of the mosquito midgut and salivary glands and elucidate the transcriptional signatures of each transmissible stage. Additionally, we identify both conserved and non-conserved gene usage between human and rodent parasites, which point to both essential mechanisms in malaria transmission and species-specific adaptations potentially linked to host tropism. Together, the data presented here, which are made freely available via an interactive website, provide a fine-grained atlas that enables intensive investigation of the P. falciparum transcriptional journey. As well as providing insights into gene function across the transmission cycle, the atlas opens the door for identification of drug and vaccine targets to stop malaria transmission and thereby prevent disease.