Sexual development in Plasmodium parasites: Knowing when it's time to commit

Gabrielle A. Josling, Manuel Llinás

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

142 Scopus citations


Malaria is a devastating infectious disease that is caused by blood-borne apicomplexan parasites of the genus Plasmodium. These pathogens have a complex lifecycle, which includes development in the anopheline mosquito vector and in the liver and red blood cells of mammalian hosts, a process which takes days to weeks, depending on the Plasmodium species. Productive transmission between the mammalian host and the mosquito requires transitioning between asexual and sexual forms of the parasite. Blood- stage parasites replicate cyclically and are mostly asexual, although a small fraction of these convert into male and female sexual forms (gametocytes) in each reproductive cycle. Despite many years of investigation, the molecular processes that elicit sexual differentiation have remained largely unknown. In this Review, we highlight several important recent discoveries that have identified epigenetic factors and specific transcriptional regulators of gametocyte commitment and development, providing crucial insights into this obligate cellular differentiation process.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)573-587
Number of pages15
JournalNature Reviews Microbiology
Issue number9
StatePublished - Aug 14 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Microbiology
  • General Immunology and Microbiology
  • Infectious Diseases


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