Modeling metabolism and stage-specific growth of Plasmodium falciparum HB3 during the intraerythrocytic developmental cycle†
The human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum goes through a complex life cycle, including a roughly 48-hour-long intraerythrocytic developmental cycle (IDC) in human red blood cells. A better understanding of the metabolic processes required during the asexual blood-stage reproduction will enhance our basic knowledge of P. falciparum and help identify critical metabolic reactions and pathways associated with blood-stage malaria. We developed a metabolic network model that mechanistically links time-dependent gene expression, metabolism, and stage-specific growth, allowing us to predict the metabolic fluxes, the biomass production rates, and the timing of production of the different biomass components during the IDC. We predicted time- and stage-specific production of precursors and macromolecules for P. falciparum (strain HB3), allowing us to link specific metabolites to specific physiological functions. For example, we hypothesized that coenzyme A might be involved in late-IDC DNA replication and cell division. Moreover, the predicted ATP metabolism indicated that energy was mainly produced from glycolysis and utilized for non-metabolic processes. Finally, we used the model to classify the entire tricarboxylic acid cycle into segments, each with a distinct function, such as superoxide detoxification, glutamate/glutamine processing, and metabolism of fumarate as a byproduct of purine biosynthesis. By capturing the normal metabolic and growth progression in P. falciparum during the IDC, our model provides a starting point for further elucidation of strain-specific metabolic activity, host–parasite interactions, stress-induced metabolic responses, and metabolic responses to antimalarial drugs and drug candidates.