An Impossible Journey? The Development of Plasmodium falciparum NF54 in Culex quinquefasciatus
Oocysts of the malaria parasite form and develop in close proximity to the mosquito midgut basal lamina and it has been proposed that components of this structure play a crucial role in the development and maturation of oocysts that produce infective sporozoites. It is further suggested that oocysts incorporate basal lamina proteins into their capsule and that this provides them with a means to evade recognition by the mosquito's immune system. The site of production of basal lamina proteins in insects is controversial and it is still unclear whether haemocytes or midgut epithelial cells are the main source of components of the mosquito midgut basal lamina. Of the multiple molecules that compose the basal lamina, laminin is known to interact with a number of Plasmodium proteins. In this study, the localisation of mosquito laminin within the capsule and cytoplasm of Plasmodium berghei oocysts and in the midgut epithelial cells of Anopheles stephensi was investigated. An ultrastructural examination of midgut sections from infected and uninfected An. stephensi was performed. Post-embedded immunogold labelling demonstrated the presence of laminin within the mosquito basal lamina. Laminin was also detected on the outer surface of the oocyst capsule, incorporated within the capsule and associated with sporozoites forming within the oocysts. Laminin was also found within cells of the midgut epithelium, providing support for the hypothesis that these cells contribute towards the formation of the midgut basal lamina. We suggest that ookinetes may become coated in laminin as they pass through the midgut epithelium. Thereafter, laminin secreted by midgut epithelial cells and/or haemocytes, binds to the outer surface of the oocyst capsule and that some passes through and is incorporated into the developing oocysts. The localisation of laminin on sporozoites was unexpected and the importance of this observation is less clear.