Robust tools for analysing gene function in Plasmodium parasites, which are the causative agents of malaria, are being developed at an accelerating rate. Two decades after genetic technologies for use in Plasmodium spp. were first described, a range of genetic tools are now available. These include conditional systems that can regulate gene expression at the genome, transcriptional or protein level, as well as more sophisticated tools for gene editing that use piggyBac transposases, integrases, zinc-finger nucleases or the CRISPR-Cas9 system. In this Review, we discuss the molecular genetic systems that are currently available for use in Plasmodium falciparum and Plasmodium berghei, and evaluate the advantages and limitations of these tools. We examine the insights that have been gained into the function of genes that are important during the blood stages of the parasites, which may help to guide the development and improvement of drug therapies and vaccines.
- parasite biology
- parasite genetics