To complete their life cycle, Plasmodium parasites, causing malaria, must travel between multiple environments. Having entered a red blood cell, they transfer through the gut of a mosquito to its salivary glands, then through the skin of a new host to its bloodstream once the mosquito bites. In these latter stages, parasites are in their fastest-moving form, known as sporozoites. Studied in a dish, sporozoites attach to a flat surface with one end of the cell while the other remains active, causing them to make waving motions, visible here as curved lines. They move by rapidly building and dismantling filaments of actin, a key cytoskeletal protein also found in our cells. Recent research suggests that parasite-specific differences in the proteins assembling these filaments, especially profilin, enable them to be so dynamic. Understanding how they move so quickly may prove helpful in fighting malaria, as motility is crucial to successful infections.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.