Skip to main content
European Commission logo print header

mAlaRIa Sex dEtermination

Project description

Deciphering sex determination in malaria parasites

Malaria transmission is caused by asexual parasites of the genus Plasmodium. However, only male and female sexual forms are capable of transmitting the infection to mosquitoes, offering a window for disease control. To determine how the male and female sexual forms of the parasite emerge from a small subset of blood-stage parasites, scientists of the EU-funded ARISE project are investigating the pathway of sex-determination in Plasmodium falciparum. The work involves both lab-adapted parasites and wild parasite populations and focusses on the identification of molecular determinants responsible for Plasmodium sexual determination. In addition to invaluable insight into the biological process of parasite propagation, the project's results will lay the foundation for new targets for malaria treatment.


Malaria is caused by parasites of the genus Plasmodium. Whilst the disease is caused by asexual parasites, only sexual forms are capable of transmitting the infection to mosquitoes. Sexual forms arise from a small subset of blood-stage parasites which divert from the cycle of asexual replication and embark on a sexual developmental trajectory. Targeting the small population of parasites transmitted to mosquitoes would provide a powerful malaria control method. Although several genes have been found to have sex-specific roles, the molecular basis of the sex-determining mechanisms of Plasmodium into one or the other sex is mostly unknown.
In this proposal I will apply innovative approaches to uncover the pathway of sex-determination in P. falciparum, in both lab-adapted parasites and wild parasite populations. Specifically, I will (i) determine the earliest events in sexual dimorphism using single-cell transcriptomics (scRNAseq) in a lab-adapted P. falciparum strain (NF54); (ii) understand determinants of malaria sexual determination in wild parasites by harnessing the power of scRNAseq; (iii) identify factors that influence determination into male or female gametocytes in natural parasite populations obtained from infected carriers.
My supervisor, Dr Talman, is a leading figure in Plasmodium transcriptome analysis and sexual biology of the parasite. He has recently set up his group in Montpellier at MIGEVEC, one of the top IRD Centres in France. MIVEGEC has a unique and long history of supporting research and provides the best environment to conduct cutting-edge research in the lab as well as in challenging conditions in malaria endemic countries. Although this project represents an ambitious undertaking, I am confident my strong previous experience in malaria research and the genuine commitment to widen my field of expertise will contribute to have a major impact, providing an invaluable insight into a basic biological process essential for parasite propagation.


Net EU contribution
€ 184 707,84
Boulevard de dunkerque 44 cs 90009
13572 Marseille

See on map

Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur Bouches-du-Rhône
Other funding
€ 0,00