Cellular interactions of Plasmodium liver stage with its host mammalian cell

Nazneen Bano, Julia D. Romano, Bamini Jayabalasingham, Isabelle Coppens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The Plasmodium liver forms are bridgehead stages between the mosquito sporozoite stages and mammalian blood stages that instigate the malaria disease. In hepatocytes, Plasmodium achieves one of the fastest growth rates among eukaryotic cells. However, nothing is known about host hepatic cell interactions, e.g. nutrient scavenging and/or subversion of cellular functions necessary for Plasmodium development and replication. Plasmodium usually invades hepatocytes by establishing a parasitophorous vacuole wherein it undergoes multiple nuclear division cycles. We show that Plasmodium preferentially develops in the host juxtanuclear region. By comparison with the parasitophorous vacuole of other apicomplexan parasites which associate with diverse host organelles, the Plasmodium parasitophorous vacuole only forms an association with the host endoplasmic reticulum. Intrahepatic Plasmodium actively modifies the permeability of its vacuole to allow the transfer of a large variety of molecules from the host cytosol to the vacuolar space through open channels. In contrast with malaria blood stages, the pores within the parasitophorous vacuole membrane of the liver stage display a smaller size as they restrict the passage of solutes to less than 855 Da. These pores are stably maintained during parasite karyokinesis until complete cellularisation. Host-derived cholesterol accumulated at the parasitophorous vacuole membrane may modulate the channel activity. These observations define the parasitophorous vacuole of the Plasmodium liver stage as a dynamic and highly permeable compartment that can ensure the sustained supply of host molecules to support parasite growth in the nutrient-rich environment of liver cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1329-1341
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 2007


  • Channel
  • Cholesterol
  • Fluorescence microscopy
  • Host organelle recruitment
  • Malaria parasites
  • Microinjection
  • Parasitophorous vacuole membrane
  • Protozoa

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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