Link to Pubmed [PMID] – 36847501
Link to DOI – 10.1128/spectrum.03671-22
Microbiol Spectr 2023 Feb; (): e0367122
Malaria inflicts the highest rate of morbidity and mortality among the vector-borne diseases. The dramatic bottleneck of parasite numbers that occurs in the gut of the obligatory mosquito vector provides a promising target for novel control strategies. Using single-cell transcriptomics, we analyzed Plasmodium falciparum development in the mosquito gut, from unfertilized female gametes through the first 20 h after blood feeding, including the zygote and ookinete stages. This study revealed the temporal gene expression of the ApiAP2 family of transcription factors and of parasite stress genes in response to the harsh environment of the mosquito midgut. Further, employing structural protein prediction analyses, we found several upregulated genes predicted to encode intrinsically disordered proteins (IDPs), a category of proteins known for their importance in regulation of transcription, translation, and protein-protein interactions. IDPs are known for their antigenic properties and may serve as suitable targets for antibody- or peptide-based transmission suppression strategies. In total, this study uncovers the P. falciparum transcriptome from early to late parasite development in the mosquito midgut, inside its natural vector, which provides an important resource for future malaria transmission-blocking initiatives. IMPORTANCE The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum causes more than half a million deaths per year. The current treatment regimen targets the symptom-causing blood stage inside the human host. However, recent incentives in the field call for novel interventions to block parasite transmission from humans to the mosquito vector. Therefore, we need to better understand the parasite biology during its development inside the mosquito, including a deeper understanding of the expression of genes controlling parasite progression during these stages. Here, we have generated single-cell transcriptome data, covering P. falciparum’s development, from gamete to ookinete inside the mosquito midgut, uncovering previously untapped parasite biology, including a repertoire of novel biomarkers to be explored in future transmission-blocking efforts. We anticipate that our study provides an important resource, which can be further explored to improve our understanding of the parasite biology as well as aid in guiding future malaria intervention strategies.