Susceptibility to Plasmodium liver stage infection is altered by hepatocyte polyploidy


  • The authors declare that they have no personal or financial conflicts of interest.


Plasmodium parasites infect hepatocytes of their mammalian hosts and undergo obligate liver stage development. The specific host cell attributes that are important for liver infection remain largely unknown. Several host signalling pathways are perturbed in infected hepatocytes, some of which are important in the generation of hepatocyte polyploidy. To test the functional consequence of polyploidy on liver infection, we infected hepatocytes with the rodent malaria parasite Plasmodium yoelii both in vitro and in vivo and examined the ploidy of infected and uninfected hepatocytes by flow cytometry. In both hepatoma cell lines and in the mouse liver, the fraction of polyploid cells was higher in the infected cell population than in the uninfected cell population. When the data were reanalysed by comparing the extent of Plasmodium infection within each ploidy subset, we found that infection rates were elevated in more highly polyploid cells and lower in diploid cells. Furthermore, we found that the parasite's preference for host cells with high ploidy is conserved among rodent malaria species and the human malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. This parasite preference for host cells of high ploidy cannot be explained by differences in hepatocyte size or DNA replication. We conclude that Plasmodium preferentially infects and develops in polyploid hepatocytes.