Integrated transcriptomic and proteomic analyses of P. falciparum gametocytes: molecular insight into sex-specific processes and translational repression.
Sexual differentiation of malaria parasites into gametocytes in the vertebrate host and subsequent gamete fertilization in mosquitoes is essential for the spreading of the disease. The molecular processes orchestrating these transitions are far from fully understood. Here, we report the first transcriptome analysis of male and female Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes coupled with a comprehensive proteome analysis. In male gametocytes there is an enrichment of proteins involved in the formation of flagellated gametes; proteins involved in DNA replication, chromatin organization and axoneme formation. On the other hand, female gametocytes are enriched in proteins required for zygote formation and functions after fertilization; protein-, lipid- and energy-metabolism. Integration of transcriptome and proteome data revealed 512 highly expressed maternal transcripts without corresponding protein expression indicating large scale translational repression in P. falciparum female gametocytes for the first time. Despite a high degree of conservation between Plasmodium species, 260 of these 'repressed transcripts' have not been previously described. Moreover, for some of these genes, protein expression is only reported in oocysts and sporozoites indicating that repressed transcripts can be partitioned into short- and long-term storage. Finally, these data sets provide an essential resource for identification of vaccine/drug targets and for further mechanistic studies.