|As mentioned earlier, P. falciparum is a parasite that obtains the
bulk of its nutrition from its host. During the assexual phase of
reproduction, the host is always a human. During the sexual phase, a
female Anopheles mosquito is the host.
Once the species has found its host most of the hard work is done, and
few things stand in its way.
Main consumption of nutrients begins when a single merozoite is
enclosed in a vacuole of the host's red blood cell, separate from the
From here, three visible stages occur.
||What is occuring
||approx. 24 hours
|between 6-12 hours
||Very active - most of the red blood cell's cytoplasm is
consumed during this period
|between 12-18 hours
||4-5 rounds of binary fissions occur, the added merozoites
that will later burst from the cell and start another round.
Entire process takes about 48 hours and
is closely linked to reproduction
P. falciparum contains a cytostome which is a large double membrane
structure that connects the parasite and red blood cell's cytoplasm.
When the cytostomes devour a red blood cell's cytoplasm another vesicle
is formed by budding. The newly formed vacuole becomes the site of most
hemoglobin digestion. Enzymes are present to aid in the digestion, and
dense hemozoin crystals aid in differential centrifugation. Because of
these enzymes and other processes occurring, the digestive vacuole must
be maintained at a specific pH (around 5.0) and ionic strength (Francis)
P. falciparum uses glucose and glycerol as its major source of carbon
(Gardner). The cytoplasm of the red blood cells contains 95% hemoglobin. The
hemoglobin is then used to generate amino acids for the parasite. This is
considered highly important because P. falciparum lacks the
capability to synthesize many amino acids itself. Amino acids that are
not present or present in small amounts in the cytoplasm (methionine,
cysteine, glutamine, glutamate, and isoleucine) are found in the human cell
medium. The hemoglobin and cytoplasm catabolism is then used for protein
synthesis. A secretory pathway that aids in protein transport is
Energy production is done through anaerobic glycolysis, where the
parasite converts pyruvate to lactate (Gardner).
Much of how falciparum transports and metabolizes the food it ingests
still questionable or more in-depth than what will be explored here. For
One of the leading tools for understanding P. falciparum and how it
maintains life is its
and family tree.