Metabolomic analysis of patient plasma yields evidence of plant-like-linolenic acid metabolism in plasmodium falciparum

Viswanathan Lakshmanan, Kyu Y. Rhee, Wei Wang, Yiting Yu, Kamil Khafizov, Andras Fiser, Peng Wu, Omar Ndir, Souleymane Mboup, Daouda Ndiaye, Johanna P. Daily

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Metabolomics offers a powerful means to investigate human malaria parasite biology and host-parasite interactions at the biochemical level, and to discover novel therapeutic targets and biomarkers of infection. Here, we used an approach based on liquid chromatography and mass spectrometry to perform an untargeted metabolomic analysis of metabolite extracts from Plasmodium falciparum-infected and uninfected patient plasma samples, and from an enriched population of in vitro cultured P. falciparum-infected and uninfected erythrocytes. Statistical modeling robustly segregated infected and uninfected samples based on metabolite species with significantly different abundances. Metabolites of the-linolenic acid (ALA) pathway, known to exist in plants but not known to exist in P. falciparum until now, were enriched in infected plasma and erythrocyte samples. In vitro labeling with 13C-ALA showed evidence of plant-like ALA pathway intermediates in P. falciparum. Ortholog searches using ALA pathway enzyme sequences from 8 available plant genomes identified several genes in the P. falciparum genome that were predicted to potentially encode the corresponding enzymes in the hitherto unannotated P. falciparum pathway. These data suggest that our approach can be used to discover novel facets of host/malaria parasite biology in a high-throughput manner.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)238-248
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Infectious Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 15 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Infectious Diseases


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