Gametogenesis, the formation of gametes from gametocytes, an essential step for malaria parasite transmission, is targeted by transmission-blocking drugs and vaccines. We identified a conserved protein (PBANKA_0305900) in Plasmodium berghei, which encodes a protein of 22 kDa (thus named Pb22) and is expressed in both asexual stages and gametocytes. Its homologs are present in all Plasmodium species and its closely related Hepatocystis, but not in other apicomplexans. Pb22 protein was localized in the cytosols of schizonts, as well as male and female gametocytes.
In malaria parasites, male gametogenesis is a proliferative stage essential for parasite transmission to the mosquito vector. It is a rapid process involving three rounds of genome replication alternating with closed endomitoses, and assembly of axonemes to produce eight flagellated motile microgametes. Studies in Plasmodium berghei have highlighted tight regulation of gametogenesis by a network of kinases.