Morphological and Molecular Descriptors of the Developmental Cycle of Babesia divergens Parasites in Human Erythrocytes

Published Date
PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2015 May 8;9(5):e0003711
Rossouw I
Maritz-Olivier C
Niemand J
van Biljon R
Smit A
Olivier NA
Birkholtz LM

Human babesiosis, especially caused by the cattle derived Babesia divergens parasite, is on the increase, resulting in renewed attentiveness to this potentially life threatening emerging zoonotic disease. The molecular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology and intra-erythrocytic development of these parasites are poorly understood. This impedes concerted efforts aimed at the discovery of novel anti-babesiacidal agents. By applying sensitive cell biological and molecular functional genomics tools, we describe the intra-erythrocytic development cycle of B. divergens parasites from immature, mono-nucleated ring forms to bi-nucleated paired piriforms and ultimately multi-nucleated tetrads that characterizes zoonotic Babesia spp. This is further correlated for the first time to nuclear content increases during intra-erythrocytic development progression, providing insight into the part of the life cycle that occurs during humaninfection. High-content temporal evaluation elucidated the contribution of the different stages to life cycle progression. Moreover, molecular descriptors indicate that B. divergens parasites employ physiological adaptation to in vitro cultivation. Additionally, differential expression is observed as the parasite equilibrates its developmental stages during its life cycle. Together, this information provides the first temporal evaluation of the functional transcriptome of B. divergens parasites, information that could be useful in identifying biological processes essential to parasite survival for future anti-babesiacidal discoveries.