Overlapping and distinct roles of CDPK family members in the pre-erythrocytic stages of the rodent malaria parasite, Plasmodium berghei

Kavitha Govindasamy, Purnima Bhanot

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14 Scopus citations


Invasion of hepatocytes by Plasmodium sporozoites initiates the pre-erythrocytic step of a malaria infection. Subsequent development of the parasite within hepatocytes and exit from them is essential for starting the disease-causing erythrocytic cycle. Identification of signaling pathways that operate in pre-erythrocytic stages provides insight into a critical step of infection and potential targets for chemoprotection from malaria. We demonstrate that P. berghei homologs of Calcium Dependent Protein Kinase 1 (CDPK1), CDPK4 and CDPK5 play overlapping but distinct roles in sporozoite invasion and parasite egress from hepatocytes. All three kinases are expressed in sporozoites. All three are required for optimal motility of sporozoites and consequently their invasion of hepatocytes. Increased cGMP can compensate for the functional loss of CDPK1 and CDPK5 during sporozoite invasion but cannot overcome loss of CDPK4. CDPK1 and CDPK5 expression is downregulated after sporozoite invasion. CDPK5 reappears in a subset of late stage liver stages and is present in all merosomes. Chemical inhibition of CDPK4 and depletion of CDPK5 in liver stages implicate these kinases in the formation and/or release of merosomes from mature liver stages. Furthermore, depletion of CDPK5 in merosomes significantly delays initiation of the erythrocytic cycle without affecting infectivity of hepatic merozoites. These data suggest that CDPK5 may be required for the rupture of merosomes. Our work provides evidence that sporozoite invasion requires CDPK1 and CDPK5, and suggests that CDPK5 participates in the release of hepatic merozoites.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere1008131
JournalPLoS pathogens
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics
  • Virology


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