Gene expression in Plasmodia integrates post-transcriptional regulation with epigenetic marking of active genomic regions through histone post-translational modifications (PTMs). To generate insights into the importance of histone PTMs to the entire asexual and sexual developmental cycles of the parasite, we used complementary and comparative quantitative chromatin proteomics to identify and functionally characterise histone PTMs in 8 distinct life cycle stages of P. falciparum parasites. ~500 individual histone PTMs were identified of which 106 could be stringently validated. 46 individual histone PTMs and 30 co-existing PTMs were fully quantified with high confidence. Importantly, 15 of these histone PTMs are novel for Plasmodia (e.g. H3K122ac, H3K27me3, H3K56me3). The comparative nature of the data revealed a highly dynamic histone PTM landscape during life cycle development, with a set of histone PTMs (H3K4ac, H3K9me1 and H3K36me2) displaying a unique and conserved abundance profile exclusively during gametocytogenesis (P < 0.001). Euchromatic histone PTMs are abundant during schizogony and late gametocytes; heterochromatic PTMs mark early gametocytes. Collectively, this data provides the most accurate, complete and comparative chromatin proteomic analyses of the entire life cycle development of malaria parasites. A substantial association between histone PTMs and stage-specific transition provides insights into the intricacies characterising Plasmodial developmental biology.
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