Project 9

Project 9

Decoding the molecular mechanisms of endocytic processes in the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum

Project leaders:
Prof. Dr. Tim-Wolf Gilberger (2008 – 2012)
Dr. Tobias Spielmann (2012 – 2017)
Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine


The pathology of malaria is caused by the development of Plasmodium parasites in human red blood cells. In this part of the life cycle, the parasite invades red blood cells, wherein it grows and multiplies to produce new invasive stages. After host cell rupture, these stages invade new red blood cells to continue the cycle. During its development in red blood cells the parasite ingests most of the host cell cytoplasm (predominantly hemoglobin) and transports the internalised material to a food vacuole for digestion. This prominent process is essential for the parasite to provide nutrients and to create space for growth. Knowledge about this process so far relied predominantly on electron microscopy and inhibitor studies but the actual uptake of host cell cytosol has never been observed in real time. The aim of this project is to visualise the ingestion of host cell cytosol and to shed light on the underlying molecular mechanisms.