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Journal of Tropical Medicine
Volume 2012 (2012), Article ID 646534, 15 pages
http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2012/646534
Review Article

On Programmed Cell Death in Plasmodium falciparum: Status Quo

1Plasmodium Molecular Research Unit, Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa
2Evolutionary Medicine Unit, Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, School of Pathology, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand and National Health Laboratory Service, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa
3Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology, Wits Medical School, Room 7Q11, 7 York Road, Parktown, Johannesburg 2193, South Africa

Received 31 December 2010; Accepted 16 September 2011

Academic Editor: Wilbur Milhous

Copyright © 2012 Dewaldt Engelbrecht et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Abstract

Conflicting arguments and results exist regarding the occurrence and phenotype of programmed cell death (PCD) in the malaria parasite Plasmodium falciparum. Inconsistencies relate mainly to the number and type of PCD markers assessed and the different methodologies used in the studies. In this paper, we provide a comprehensive overview of the current state of knowledge and empirical evidence for PCD in the intraerythrocytic stages of P. falciparum. We consider possible reasons for discrepancies in the data and offer suggestions towards more standardised investigation methods in this field. Furthermore, we present genomic evidence for PCD machinery in P. falciparum. We discuss the potential adaptive or nonadaptive role of PCD in the parasite life cycle and its possible exploitation in the development of novel drug targets. Lastly, we pose pertinent unanswered questions concerning the PCD phenomenon in P. falciparum to provide future direction.