Plasmodium gametocytes display homing and vascular transmigration in the host bone marrow

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Science Advances  23 May 2018:
Vol. 4, no. 5, eaat3775
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat3775


Transmission of Plasmodium parasites to the mosquito requires the formation and development of gametocytes. Studies in infected humans have shown that only the most mature forms of Plasmodium falciparum gametocytes are present in circulation, whereas immature forms accumulate in the hematopoietic environment of the bone marrow. We used the rodent model Plasmodium berghei to study gametocyte behavior through time under physiological conditions. Intravital microscopy demonstrated preferential homing of early gametocyte forms across the intact vascular barrier of the bone marrow and the spleen early during infection and subsequent development in the extravascular environment. During the acute phase of infection, we observed vascular leakage resulting in further parasite accumulation in this environment. Mature gametocytes showed high deformability and were found entering and exiting the intact vascular barrier. We suggest that extravascular gametocyte localization and mobility are essential for gametocytogenesis and transmission of Plasmodium to the mosquito.

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