The protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Plasmodium have a complex life cycle in which the asexual multiplication of parasites in the vertebrate host alternates with an obligate sexual reproduction in the mosquito. Gametocytes (male and female) produced in the vertebrate host are responsible for transmitting parasites to mosquitoes. Although our understanding of the biology and genetics of sexual differentiation in Plasmodium is expanding, the most basic questions concerning molecular mechanisms of sexual differentiation and sex determination still remain unanswered. Recently, insight into the control of this complex process in P. falciparum and P. berghei has come from studying parasite mutants with aberrant capacities for gametocyte production. Here, Cheryl-Ann Lobo and Nirbhay Kumar review these analyses in P. falciparum.
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