Apicomplexans comprise some of the most life threatening parasites infecting human and livestock and includes Plasmodium and Toxoplasma, the causative agents of malaria and toxoplasmosis respectively, in humans as well as Neospora caninum (abortion in livestock, neosporosis in dogs), Cryptosporidium (Diarrheal cryptosporidiosis and opportunistic infections in AIDS patients) and Eimeria (poultry coccidiosis). These parasites are characterized by a complex life cycle usually alternating between sexual and asexual cycles in different hosts. The need to adapt to different host environments, demands a tight regulation of gene expression during parasite development. Therefore, the understanding of parasite biology will facilitate the control of the infection and the disease. In this review we emphasize the progress made so far in gene regulation in two medically important parasites, namely Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii, as well as other less known apicomplexan. The genome of both Plasmodium and Toxoplasma has been sequenced and since then there has been a significant progress in understanding the molecular mechanisms that control stage specific gene expression in the two parasites. In addition, the information gained in each of the parasite can be used in studying mechanisms that are still elusive in the other apicomplexans that are not readily available. Additionally, they can serve as model systems for other disease causing Apicomplexan parasites.
Keywords: Apicomplexan, transcription regulation, stage specificity, epigenetics, gene expression, drug target
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