Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes display global chromatin remodelling during sexual differentiation

Jeninga M, Tang J, Selvarajah SA, Maier AG, Duffy MF, Petter M (2023)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2023


Book Volume: 21

Article Number: 65

Journal Issue: 1

DOI: 10.1186/s12915-023-01568-4


Background: The protozoan malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum has a complex life cycle during which it needs to differentiate into multiple morphologically distinct life forms. A key process for transmission of the disease is the development of male and female gametocytes in the human blood, yet the mechanisms determining sexual dimorphism in these haploid, genetically identical sexual precursor cells remain largely unknown. To understand the epigenetic program underlying the differentiation of male and female gametocytes, we separated the two sexual forms by flow cytometry and performed RNAseq as well as comprehensive ChIPseq profiling of several histone variants and modifications. Results: We show that in female gametocytes the chromatin landscape is globally remodelled with respect to genome-wide patterns and combinatorial usage of histone variants and histone modifications. We identified sex specific differences in heterochromatin distribution, implicating exported proteins and ncRNAs in sex determination. Specifically in female gametocytes, the histone variants H2A.Z/H2B.Z were highly enriched in H3K9me3-associated heterochromatin. H3K27ac occupancy correlated with stage-specific gene expression, but in contrast to asexual parasites this was unlinked to H3K4me3 co-occupancy at promoters in female gametocytes. Conclusions: Collectively, we defined novel combinatorial chromatin states differentially organising the genome in gametocytes and asexual parasites and unravelled fundamental, sex-specific differences in the epigenetic code. Our chromatin maps represent an important resource for future understanding of the mechanisms driving sexual differentiation in P. falciparum.

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Jeninga, M., Tang, J., Selvarajah, S.A., Maier, A.G., Duffy, M.F., & Petter, M. (2023). Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes display global chromatin remodelling during sexual differentiation. BMC Biology, 21(1).


Jeninga, Myriam, et al. "Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes display global chromatin remodelling during sexual differentiation." BMC Biology 21.1 (2023).

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