Programmed cell death and the protozoan parasite

Regulation of host cell survival by intracellular Plasmodium and Theileria parasites

V. HEUSSLER a1c1, A. STURM a1 and G. LANGSLEY a2
a1 Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 74, 20359 Hamburg, Germany
a2 Institut Cochin, U567 INSERM /UMR 8104 CNRS/Fac de Medecine Paris V, Département Maladies Infectieuses, 22 rue Mechain, 75014 Paris, France

Article author query
heussler v   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
sturm a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
langsley g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


Plasmodium and Theileria parasites are obligate intracellular protozoa of the phylum Apicomplexa. Theileria infection of bovine leukocytes induces transformation of host cells and infected leukocytes can be kept indefinitely in culture. Theileria-dependent host cell transformation has been the subject of interest for many years and the molecular basis of this unique phenomenon is quite well understood. The equivalent life cycle stage of Plasmodium is the infection of mammalian hepatocytes, where parasites reside for 2–7 days depending on the species. Some of the molecular details of parasite-host interactions in P. berghei-infected hepatocytes have emerged only very recently. Similar to what has been shown for Theileria-infected leukocytes these data suggest that malaria parasites within hepatocytes also protect their host cell from programmed cell death. However, the strategies employed to inhibit host cell apoptotic pathways appear to be different to those used by Theileria. This review discusses similarities and differences at the molecular level of Plasmodium- and Theileria-induced regulation of the host cell survival machinery.

Key Words: Plasmodium; Theileria; apoptosis; signal transduction.

c1 Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine, Bernhard-Nocht-Str. 74, 20359 Hamburg, Germany. Tel: ++49 40 42818485. Fax: ++49 4042818512. Email: