Plasmodium falciparum LipB mutants display altered redox and carbon metabolism in asexual stages and cannot complete sporogony in Anopheles mosquitoes

Marco Biddau, T.R. Santha Kumar, Philipp Henrich, Larissa M. Laine, Gavin J. Blackburn, Achuthanunni Chokkathukalam, Tao Li, Kim Lee Sim, Lewis King, Stephen L. Hoffman, Michael P. Barrett, Graham H. Coombs, Geoffrey I. McFadden, David A. Fidock, Sylke Müller, Lilach Sheiner

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Malaria is still one of the most important global infectious diseases. Emergence of drug resistance and a shortage of new efficient antimalarials continue to hamper a malaria eradication agenda. Malaria parasites are highly sensitive to changes in the redox environment. Understanding the mechanisms regulating parasite redox could contribute to the design of new drugs. Malaria parasites have a complex network of redox regulatory systems housed in their cytosol, in their mitochondrion and in their plastid (apicoplast). While the roles of enzymes of the thioredoxin and glutathione pathways in parasite survival have been explored, the antioxidant role of α-lipoic acid (LA) produced in the apicoplast has not been tested. To take a first step in teasing a putative role of LA in redox regulation, we analysed a mutant Plasmodium falciparum (3D7 strain) lacking the apicoplast lipoic acid protein ligase B (lipB) known to be depleted of LA. Our results showed a change in expression of redox regulators in the apicoplast and the cytosol. We further detected a change in parasite central carbon metabolism, with lipB deletion resulting in changes to glycolysis and tricarboxylic acid cycle activity. Further, in another Plasmodium cell line (NF54), deletion of lipB impacted development in the mosquito, preventing the detection of infectious sporozoite stages. While it is not clear at this point if the observed phenotypes are linked, these findings flag LA biosynthesis as an important subject for further study in the context of redox regulation in asexual stages, and point to LipB as a potential target for the development of new transmission drugs.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)441-453
Number of pages13
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number6
Early online date11 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2021


  • plasmodium falciparum
  • malaria
  • apicoplast
  • metabolism
  • antioxidant
  • lipoic acid
  • redox
  • sporogony

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