Developmental regulation of stage-specific ribosome populations in Plasmodium


THE Plasmodium parasites are so far unique in biology in possessing develop mentally regulated ribosomal RNA gene units1. Two different genes encode their small subunit rRNAs: one gene (A) yields transcripts predominant in the asexual blood-stage parasites, and the other (C) is mainly transcribed in the sporozoite forms that develop in the mosquito1, 2. Developmental control of events allowing a switch in the complement of ribosomes must coordinate the production of the new class with selective inactivation and removal of the old. We show here that in P. falciparum the switch from A to C gene expression involves the control of rRNA processing, allowing accumulation of precursor C-gene transcripts in gametocytes. These precursor molecules are processed to mature size in the zygote and the early ookinete, where both transcription and processing of the C-gene rRNA seem to be accelerated. As the C-gene precursor rRNA appears, a defined and limited pattern of breakdown of the dominant A-gene rRNA occurs, in which conserved, functionally active sequences involved in the termination of translation and elongation are targeted. By the late oocyst stage1, the A-gene transcripts are virtually replaced by mature C-gene transcripts.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.


  1. 1

    Gunderson, J. H. et al. Science 238, 933–937 (1987).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    McCutchan, T. F. et al. Molec. Biochem. Parasitol. 28, 63–68 (1988).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. 3

    Murgola, E. J., Hijazi, K. A., Goringer, H. U. & Dahlberg, A. E. Proc. natn. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 85, 4162–4165 (1988).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Dahlberg, A. E. Cell 57, 525–529 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Dams, E. et al. Nucleic Acids Res. 16, r87–r173 (1988).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Finley, D., Bartel, B. & Varshavsky, A. Nature 338, 394–401 (1989).

    ADS  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Carter, R., Graves, P. M., Quakyi, I. A. & Good, M. F. J. Exp. Med. 169, 135–147 (1989).

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    Maniatis, T., Fritsch, E. F. & Sambrook, J. Molecular Cloning: A Laboratory Manual 194–195 (Cold Spring Harbour Laboratory, New York, 1982).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Waters, A. P. & McCutchan, T. F. Lancet i, 1343–1346 (1989).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Waters, A., Syin, C. & McCutchan, T. Developmental regulation of stage-specific ribosome populations in Plasmodium. Nature 342, 438–440 (1989).

Download citation


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing