Periodic fever is a characteristic clinical feature of human malaria, but how parasites survive febrile episodes is not known. Although the genomes of Plasmodium species encode a full set of chaperones, they lack the conserved eukaryotic transcription factor HSF1, which activates the expression of chaperones following heat shock. Here, we show that PfAP2-HS, a transcription factor in the ApiAP2 family, regulates the protective heat-shock response in Plasmodium falciparum. PfAP2-HS activates the transcription of hsp70-1 and hsp90 at elevated temperatures. The main binding site of PfAP2-HS in the entire genome coincides with a tandem G-box DNA motif in the hsp70-1 promoter. Engineered parasites lacking PfAP2-HS have reduced heat-shock survival and severe growth defects at 37 °C but not at 35 °C. Parasites lacking PfAP2-HS also have increased sensitivity to imbalances in protein homeostasis (proteostasis) produced by artemisinin, the frontline antimalarial drug, or the proteasome inhibitor epoxomicin. We propose that PfAP2-HS contributes to the maintenance of proteostasis under basal conditions and upregulates specific chaperone-encoding genes at febrile temperatures to protect the parasite against protein damage.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology
- Microbiology (medical)
- Cell Biology