A Novel Chemically Differentiated Mouse Embryonic Stem Cell-Based Model to Study Liver Stages of Plasmodium berghei.
Asymptomatic and obligatory liver stage (LS) infection of Plasmodium parasites presents an attractive target for antimalarial vaccine and drug development. Lack of robust cellular models to study LS infection has hindered the discovery and validation of host genes essential for intrahepatic parasite development. Here, we present a chemically differentiated mouse embryonic stem cell (ESC)-based LS model, which supports complete development of Plasmodium berghei exoerythrocytic forms (EEFs) and can be used to define new host-parasite interactions. Using our model, we established that host Pnpla2, coding for adipose triglyceride lipase, is dispensable for P. berghei EEF development. In addition, we also evaluated in-vitro-differentiated human hepatocyte-like cells (iHLCs) to study LS of P. berghei and found it to be a sub-optimal infection model. Overall, our results present a new mouse ESC-based P. berghei LS infection model that can be utilized to study the impact of host genetic variation on parasite development.