The Plasmodium subtilisin-like serine protease SUB1 is expressed in hepatic and both asexual and sexual blood parasite stages. SUB1 is required for egress of invasive forms of the parasite from both erythrocytes and hepatocytes, but its subcellular localisation, function, and potential substrates in the sexual stages are unknown. Here, we have characterised the expression profile and subcellular localisation of SUB1 in Plasmodium berghei sexual stages. We show that the protease is selectively expressed in mature male gametocytes and localises to secretory organelles known to be involved in gamete egress, called male osmiophilic bodies. We have investigated PbSUB1 function in the sexual stages by generating P. berghei transgenic lines deficient in PbSUB1 expression or enzyme activity in gametocytes. Our results demonstrate that PbSUB1 plays a role in male gamete egress. We also show for the first time that the PbSUB1 substrate PbSERA3 is expressed in gametocytes and processed by PbSUB1 upon gametocyte activation. Taken together, our results strongly suggest that PbSUB1 is not only a promising drug target for asexual stages but could also be an attractive malaria transmission-blocking target.
- Plasmodium berghei
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