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Quantitative protein expression profiling reveals extensive post-transcriptional regulation and post-translational modifications in schizont-stage malaria parasites

Bernardo J Foth, Neng Zhang, Sachel Mok, Peter R Preiser and Zbynek Bozdech*

Author Affiliations

School of Biological Sciences, Nanyang Technological University, Nanyang Drive, 637551 Singapore

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Genome Biology 2008, 9:R177  doi:10.1186/gb-2008-9-12-r177

Published: 17 December 2008

Abstract

Background

Malaria is a one of the most important infectious diseases and is caused by parasitic protozoa of the genus Plasmodium. Previously, quantitative characterization of the P. falciparum transcriptome demonstrated that the strictly controlled progression of these parasites through their intra-erythrocytic developmental cycle is accompanied by a continuous cascade of gene expression. Although such analyses have proven immensely useful, the correlations between abundance of transcripts and their cognate proteins remain poorly characterized.

Results

Here, we present a quantitative time-course analysis of relative protein abundance for schizont-stage parasites (34 to 46 hours after invasion) based on two-dimensional differential gel electrophoresis of protein samples labeled with fluorescent dyes. For this purpose we analyzed parasite samples taken at 4-hour intervals from a tightly synchronized culture and established more than 500 individual protein abundance profiles with high temporal resolution and quantitative reproducibility. Approximately half of all profiles exhibit a significant change in abundance and 12% display an expression peak during the observed 12-hour time interval. Intriguingly, identification of 54 protein spots by mass spectrometry revealed that 58% of the corresponding proteins - including actin-I, enolase, eukaryotic initiation factor (eIF)4A, eIF5A, and several heat shock proteins - are represented by more than one isoform, presumably caused by post-translational modifications, with the various isoforms of a given protein frequently showing different expression patterns. Furthermore, comparisons with transcriptome data generated from the same parasite samples reveal evidence of significant post-transcriptional gene expression regulation.

Conclusions

Together, our data indicate that both post-transcriptional and post-translational events are widespread and of presumably great biological significance during the intra-erythrocytic development of P. falciparum.