The malaria parasite has an intrinsic clock

Filipa Rijo-Ferreira, Victoria A. Acosta-Rodriguez, John H. Abel, Izabela Kornblum, Ines Bento, Gokhul Kilaru, Elizabeth B. Klerman, Maria M. Mota, Joseph S. Takahashi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Malarial rhythmic fevers are the consequence of the synchronous bursting of red blood cells (RBCs) on completion of the malaria parasite asexual cell cycle. Here, we hypothesized that an intrinsic clock in the parasite Plasmodium chabaudi underlies the 24-hour-based rhythms of RBC bursting in mice. We show that parasite rhythms are flexible and lengthen to match the rhythms of hosts with long circadian periods. We also show that malaria rhythms persist even when host food intake is evenly spread across 24 hours, suggesting that host feeding cues are not required for synchrony. Moreover, we find that the parasite population remains synchronous and rhythmic even in an arrhythmic clock mutant host. Thus, we propose that parasite rhythms are generated by the parasite, possibly to anticipate its circadian environment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)746-753
Number of pages8
Issue number6492
StatePublished - May 15 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General


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