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Alteration of the expression of sirtuins and var genes by heat shock in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

Anagu, Linda O.; Hulse, David R.; Horrocks, Paul D.; Chakravorty, Srabasti J.

Alteration of the expression of sirtuins and var genes by heat shock in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum Thumbnail


Linda O. Anagu

David R. Hulse


In Plasmodium falciparum the monoallelic expression of var virulence genes is regulated through epigenetic mechanisms. A study in the Gambia showed that an increase in var gene expression is associated with fever, high blood lactate with commonly-expressed var genes expressed in patients with severe malaria. A strong association was demonstrated between the upregulation of PfSir2A and group B var genes. A subsequent study in Kenya extended this association to show a link between elevated expression of PfSir2A and overall var transcript levels. We investigate here the link between heat shock and/or lactate levels on sirtuin and var gene expression levels in vitro.

In vitro experiments were conducted using laboratory and recently-laboratory-adapted Kenyan isolates of P. falciparum. To investigate a potential cause-and-effect relationship between host stress factors and parasite gene expression, qPCR was used to measure the expression of sirtuins and var genes after highly synchronous cultured parasites had been exposed to 2?h or 6?h of heat shock at 40?°C or elevated lactate.

Heat shock was shown to increase the expression ofPfSir2B in the trophozoites, whereas exposure to lactate was not. After the ring stages were exposed to heat shock and lactate, there was no alteration in the expression of sirtuins and severe-disease-associated upsA and upsB var genes. The association between high blood lactate and sirtuin/var gene expression that was previously observed in vivo appears to be coincidental rather than causative.

This study demonstrates that heat stress in a laboratory and recently-laboratory-adapted isolates of P. falciparum results in a small increase in PfSir2B transcripts in the trophozoite stages only. This finding adds to our understanding of how patient factors can influence the outcome of Plasmodium falciparum infections.

Acceptance Date Jan 10, 2022
Publication Date Mar 1, 2022
Journal Molecular and Biochemical Parasitology
Print ISSN 0166-6851
Publisher Elsevier
Pages 111458 - 111458
Keywords Plasmodium, var; Antigenic variation; Sirtuin; Sir2A; Sir2B; Heat shock
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