Malaria parasites produce volatile mosquito attractants.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1128/mbio.00235-15
The malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum contains a nonphotosynthetic plastid organelle that possesses plant-like metabolic pathways. Plants use the plastidial isoprenoid biosynthesis pathway to produce volatile odorants, known as terpenes. In this work, we describe the volatile chemical profile of cultured malaria parasites. Among the identified compounds are several plant-like terpenes and terpene derivatives, including known mosquito attractants. We establish the molecular identity of the odorant receptors of the malaria mosquito vector Anopheles gambiae, which responds to these compounds. The malaria parasite produces volatile signals that are recognized by mosquitoes and may thereby mediate host attraction and facilitate transmission. Malaria is a key global health concern. Mosquitoes that transmit malaria are more attracted to malaria parasite-infected mammalian hosts. These studies aimed to understand the chemical signals produced by malaria parasites; such an understanding may lead to new transmission-blocking strategies or noninvasive malaria diagnostics.