A proteomic view of the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle


The completion of the Plasmodium falciparum clone 3D7 genome provides a basis on which to conduct comparative proteomics studies of this human pathogen. Here, we applied a high-throughput proteomics approach to identify new potential drug and vaccine targets and to better understand the biology of this complex protozoan parasite. We characterized four stages of the parasite life cycle (sporozoites, merozoites, trophozoites and gametocytes) by multidimensional protein identification technology. Functional profiling of over 2,400 proteins agreed with the physiology of each stage. Unexpectedly, the antigenically variant proteins of var and rif genes, defined as molecules on the surface of infected erythrocytes, were also largely expressed in sporozoites. The detection of chromosomal clusters encoding co-expressed proteins suggested a potential mechanism for controlling gene expression.

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Figure 1: Functional profiles of expressed proteins.
Figure 2: Expression patterns of known stage-specific proteins.
Figure 3: Distribution of expressed proteins by chromosome.


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We are grateful to J. Graumann, R. Sadygov, G. Chukkapalli, A. Majumdar and R. Sinkovits for computer programming; C. Deciu for the probability calculations; and C. Delahunty and C. Vieille for critical reading of the manuscript. The authors acknowledge the support of the Office of Naval Research, the US Army Medical Research and Material Command, and the National Institutes of Health (to J.R.Y.). J.D.R. is funded by a Wellcome Trust Prize Studentship. We thank the scientists and funding agencies comprising the international Malaria Genome Project for making sequence data from the genome of P. falciparum clone 3D7 public before publication of the completed sequence. The opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not reflect the official policy of the Department of the Navy, Department of Defense, or the US government.

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Correspondence to John R. Yates.

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Florens, L., Washburn, M., Raine, J. et al. A proteomic view of the Plasmodium falciparum life cycle. Nature 419, 520–526 (2002). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature01107

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