The cell division cycle and mitosis of intra-erythrocytic (IE) Plasmodium falciparum are poorly understood aspects of parasite development which affect malaria molecular pathogenesis. Specifically, the timing of the multiple gap (G), DNA synthesis (S) and chromosome separation (M) phases of parasite mitosis are not well defined, nor whether genome divisions are immediately followed by cleavage of the nuclear envelope. Curiously, daughter merozoite numbers do not follow the geometric expansion expected from equal numbers of binary divisions, an outcome difficult to explain using the standard model of cell cycle regulation. Using controlled synchronisation techniques, confocal microscopy to visualise key organelles and fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) to follow the movements and replication of genes and telomeres, we have re-analysed the timing and progression of mitotic events. The asynchronous duplications of the P. falciparum centrosome equivalents, the centriolar plaques, are established and these are correlated with chromosome and nuclear divisions in a new model of P. falciparum schizogony. Our results improve the resolution of the cell cycle and its phases during P. falciparum IE development, showing that asynchronous, independent nuclear division occurs during schizogony, with the centriolar plaques playing a major role in regulating mitotic progression.
- Plasmodium falciparum
- Centriolar plaques