O'Donnell, Aidan; Prior, KF; Reece, Sarah E. (2019). Host circadian clocks do not set the schedule for the within-host replication of malaria parasites, [dataset]. University of Edinburgh. School of Biological Sciences. https://doi.org/10.7488/ds/2622.
Circadian clocks coordinate organisms' activities with daily cycles in their environment. Parasites are subject to daily rhythms in the within-host environment, resulting from clock-control of host activities, including immune responses. Parasites also exhibit rhythms in their activities: the timing of within-host replication by malaria parasites is coordinated to host feeding rhythms. Precisely which host feeding-related rhythm(s) parasites align with and how this is achieved are unknown. Understanding rhythmic replication in malaria parasites matters because it underpins disease symptoms and fuels transmission investment. We test if rhythmicity in parasite replication is coordinated with the host's feeding-related rhythms and/or rhythms driven by the host's canonical circadian clock. We find that parasite rhythms coordinate with the time of day that hosts feed in both wild-type and clock-mutant hosts, whereas parasite rhythms become dampened in clock-mutant hosts that eat continuously. Our results hold whether infections are initiated with synchronous or with desynchronized parasites. We conclude that malaria parasite replication is coordinated to rhythmic host processes that are independent of the core-clock proteins PERIOD 1 and 2; most likely, a periodic nutrient made available when the host digests food. Thus, novel interventions could disrupt parasite rhythms to reduce their fitness, without interference by host clock-controlled homeostasis.
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