The infection by the malaria parasite of its mammalian host is initiated by the asexual reproduction of the parasite within the host hepatocyte. Before the reproduction, the elongated sporozoites undergo a depolarizing morphogenesis to the spherical exo-erythrocytic form (EEF). This change can be induced in vitro by shifting the environmental conditions, in the absence of host hepatocytes. Using rodent malaria parasites expressing a FRET-based calcium sensor, YC3.60, we observed that the intracellular calcium increased at the center of the bulbous structure during sporozoite transformation. Modulators of intracellular calcium signaling (A23187 and W-7) accelerated the sporozoite-rounding process. These data suggest that calcium signaling regulates the morphological development of the malaria parasite sporozoite to the EEF, and support a fundamental role for calcium as a universal transducer of external stimuli in the parasitic life cycle.
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