Where Ideas Grow

Host-Parasite Interactions


Malaria is a vector-borne disease caused by Plasmodium parasites. Sporozoites, the motile and invasive parasite stage deposited in the skin by infected mosquitos, must migrate and invade blood vessels to complete their development in the liver, which precedes the symptomatic blood phase. My team aims to unravel and exploit the molecular determinants and biological processes required for the completion of the sporozoite journey in the mammalian host.


The possibility to perform live imaging in animal models has been crucial to unravel many hidden secrets of the Plasmodium life cycle. By combining intravital confocal microscopy and/or whole-body bioluminescence imaging in mice with transgenic parasites, we have contributed to define mechanisms used by sporozoites to complete their journey. Of note, we have recently contributed to demonstrate that the skin is a critical site for antibody-mediated protection and the mechanisms by which effective antibodies eliminate the parasites. Indeed, the skin was for a long time disregarded due to the misconception in the field that sporozoites were directly inoculated in the blood. Discovering new antigens and immunization strategies that prevent sporozoites from exiting the skin is among the group interests.
We have also shown that following blood dissemination, sporozoites specifically home to the liver in the first minutes and proposed the first in vivo imaging method to visualize and quantify the homing of pathogens to the host tissues. We are currently investigating the molecular basis for this specific process. Among several parasite molecules of ongoing interest, we have shown that the surface adhesin “Thrombospondin-Related Sporozoite Protein” (TRSP) in sporozoites was redundant for infectivity.
If you are interested in collaborating or joining the lab, please email Joana Tavares (jtavares@i3s.up.pt).

The journey of malaria sporozoites from the skin to the liver. Sporozoites display fast gliding motility that can be tracked by intravital confocal microscopy (left). Once in the blood, sporozoites specifically home to the liver as detected by whole-body bioluminescence imaging (middle). Ultimately,


Selected Publications

Sá M., Costa D.M., Teixeira A.R., Pérez-Cabezas B., Formaglio P., Golba S., Sefiane-Djemaoune H., Amino R., Tavares J.,
MAEBL Contributes to Plasmodium Sporozoite Adhesiveness. International Journal of Molecular Sciences23(10):, 2022. [Journal: Article] [CI: 3] [IF: 5,6]
DOI: 10.3390/ijms23105711 SCOPUS: 85130320899

Sá M., Costa D.M., Tavares J.,
Imaging Infection by Vector-Borne Protozoan Parasites Using Whole-Mouse Bioluminescence. Methods in Molecular Biology2524:353-367, 2022. [Book Series: Book Chapter]
DOI: 10.1007/978-1-0716-2453-1_29 SCOPUS: 85133907400

Teixeira A.R., Pérez-Cabezas B., Costa D.M., Sá M., Golba S., Sefiane-Djemaoune H., Ribeiro J., Kaneko I., Iwanaga S., Yuda M., Tsuji M., Boscardin S.B., Amino R., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Tavares J.,
Immunization with CSP and a RIG-I Agonist is Effective in Inducing a Functional and Protective Humoral Response Against Plasmodium. Frontiers in Immunology13:, 2022. [Journal: Article] [IF: 7,3]
DOI: 10.3389/fimmu.2022.868305 SCOPUS: 85131347001

Ripp J., Kehrer J., Smyrnakou X., Tisch N., Tavares J., Amino R., Ruiz de Almodovar C., Frischknecht F.,
Malaria parasites differentially sense environmental elasticity during transmission. EMBO Molecular Medicine13(4):, 2021. [Journal: Article] [CI: 10] [IF: 14,3]
DOI: 10.15252/emmm.202113933 SCOPUS: 85102108770

De Niz M., Meehan G.R., Tavares J.,
Intravital microscopy: Imaging host–parasite interactions in lymphoid organs. Cellular Microbiology21(12):, 2019. [Journal: Review] [CI: 7] [IF: 3,4]
DOI: 10.1111/cmi.13117 SCOPUS: 85074833745

Costa D.M., Sá M., Teixeira A.R., Loureiro I., Thouvenot C., Golba S., Amino R., Tavares J.,
TRSP is dispensable for the Plasmodium pre-erythrocytic phase. Scientific Reports8(1):, 2018. [Journal: Article] [CI: 5] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-018-33398-8 SCOPUS: 85054635985

Aliprandini E., Tavares J., Panatieri R.H., Thiberge S., Yamamoto M.M., Silvie O., Ishino T., Yuda M., Dartevelle S., Traincard F., Boscardin S.B., Amino R.,
Cytotoxic anti-circumsporozoite antibodies target malaria sporozoites in the host skin. Nature Microbiology3(11):1224-1233, 2018. [Journal: Letter] [CI: 58] [IF: 14,3]
DOI: 10.1038/s41564-018-0254-z SCOPUS: 85055548444

Mendes Costa D., Cecílio P., Santarém N., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Tavares J.,
Murine infection with bioluminescent Leishmania infantum axenic amastigotes applied to drug discovery. Scientific Reports9(1):, 2019. [Journal: Article] [CI: 10] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1038/s41598-019-55474-3 SCOPUS: 85076420685

Tavares J., Costa D.M., Teixeira A.R., Cordeiro-da-Silva A., Amino R.,
In vivo imaging of pathogen homing to the host tissues. Methods127:37-44, 2017. [Journal: Article] [CI: 13] [IF: 4]
DOI: 10.1016/j.ymeth.2017.05.008 SCOPUS: 85019637511

Ménard R., Tavares J., Cockburn I., Markus M., Zavala F., Amino R.,
Looking under the skin: The first steps in malarial infection and immunity. Nature Reviews Microbiology11(10):701-712, 2013. [Journal: Review] [CI: 137] [IF: 23,3]
DOI: 10.1038/nrmicro3111 SCOPUS: 84884228351

Tavares J., Formaglio P., Thiberge S., Mordelet E., Van Rooijen N., Medvinsky A., Ménard R., Amino R.,
Role of host cell traversal by the malaria sporozoite during liver infection. Journal of Experimental Medicine210(5):905-915, 2013. [Journal: Article] [CI: 139] [IF: 13,9]
DOI: 10.1084/jem.20121130 SCOPUS: 84879577443

Ongoing Projects

Exosomas como uma fonte de novos biomarcadores para a Leishmaniose canina
Reference: PTDC/CVT-CVT/6798/2020
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 01-MAR-21 to 31-DEC-24
Immunological mechanisms of vaccines
Reference: COTUTELAS PESSOA 2022-2024
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: FCT - Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia
From 07-MAR-22 to 06-MAR-25
Primeira Caracterização Serologica Molecular e Sociodemografica da exposição a Leishmania spp na população infetada pelo VIH na região Norte de Portugal
Reference: Gilead GENESE 2022 - Proj. 17873 - PO 205013390
Proponent: Instituto de Investigação e Inovação em Saúde - Universidade do Porto
Sponsor: Gilead Sciences
From 01-FEB-23 to 31-JUL-24