During its complicated life cycle, the malarial parasite Plasmodium falciparum moves from the bloodstream of one host to another by transferring into the gut of a mosquito, where it reproduces and multiplies. To do this, the parasite undergoes a transformation into a sexual stage, known as a gametocyte. Pictured are 3D representations of gametocyte formation inside a red blood cell (in dark red): its characteristic crescent shape is created by the elongation of a set of membrane structures, known as the inner membrane complex (IMC), shown in magenta (the nucleus and mitochondria of the parasite cell are in yellow and red respectively). Recent research suggests that this transformation can be disrupted by blocking certain proteins involved in the development of the IMC. As the gametocyte stage is crucial to successful infection, seeking out ways of hindering this process could be another means to tackle the problem of malaria.
Written by Emmanuelle Briolat
BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC London Institute of Medical Sciences the website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biomedicine. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.
BPoD is also available in Catalan at www.bpod.cat with translations by the University of Valencia.