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Environmental Constraints Guide Migration of Malaria Parasites during Transmission


Schulz,  Simon
Max Planck Society;

Matuschewski,  Kai
Parasitology, Max Planck Institute for Infection Biology, Max Planck Society;

Spatz,  Joachim P.
Max Planck Society;

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Hellmann, J. K., Münter, S., Kudryashev, M., Schulz, S., Heiss, K., Müller, A.-K., et al. (2011). Environmental Constraints Guide Migration of Malaria Parasites during Transmission. PLoS Pathogens, 7(6): e1002080. doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1002080.

Migrating cells are guided in complex environments mainly by chemotaxis or structural cues presented by the surrounding tissue. During transmission of malaria, parasite motility in the skin is important for Plasmodium sporozoites to reach the blood circulation. Here we show that sporozoite migration varies in different skin environments the parasite encounters at the arbitrary sites of the mosquito bite. In order to systematically examine how sporozoite migration depends on the structure of the environment, we studied it in micro-fabricated obstacle arrays. The trajectories observed in vivo and in vitro closely resemble each other suggesting that structural constraints can be sufficient to guide Plasmodium sporozoites in complex environments. Sporozoite speed in different environments is optimized for migration and correlates with persistence length and dispersal. However, this correlation breaks down in mutant sporozoites that show adhesion impairment due to the lack of TRAP-like protein (TLP) on their surfaces. This may explain their delay in infecting the host. The flexibility of sporozoite adaption to different environments and a favorable speed for optimal dispersal ensures efficient host switching duringmalaria transmission.